MinIO: Amazon S3 competition

Premium Storage

SUBNET Makes It Possible

The far more common use case for the commercial license is probably customers who need commercial support directly from the manufacturer. The subscription program, known as SUBNET, distinguishes between two levels. As part of a standard subscription, customers automatically receive long-term support for a version of MinIO for a period of one year. A service-level agreement (SLA) guarantees priority assistance for problems in less than 24 hours. To this end, customers have round-the-clock access to the manufacturer's support.

For updates, MinIO Inc. is available with help and advice. A panic button feature provides emergency assistance by the provider's consultants, but only once a year. The subscription also includes an annual review of the store architecture and a performance review. This package costs $10 per month per terabyte. However, charges are only levied up to a total capacity of 10PB; everything beyond this limit is virtually free of charge.

If this license is not sufficient, you can use the Enterprise license, which includes all the features of the Standard license, but costs $20 per month per terabyte up to a limit of 5PB. In return, customers receive five years of long-term support, an SLA with a response time of less than one hour, unlimited panic button deployment, and additional security reviews. In this model, the manufacturer also offers to reimburse customers for some damage that could occur to the stored data.

The costing for both models refers to the actual amount of storage in use, so if you have a 200PB cluster at your data center, but you are only using 100TB, you only pay for 100TB. Additional expenditures for redundancy are also not subject to charge. If you use the erasure coding feature for implicit redundancy, you will only pay the amount for 100TB of user data, even though the data in the cluster occupies around 140TB.

This license is not exactly cheap. For 500TB of capacity used, the monthly bill would be $10,000, which is not a small amount for software-defined storage.

The Elephant in the Room

MinIO impresses with its feature set and proves to be robust and reliable in tests. Because the program uses the Amazon S3 protocol, it is usable for many clients on the market, as well as by a variety of tools with S3 integration. Therefore, a critical, although brief look at the S3 protocol itself makes sense.

All of the many different S3 clones on the market, such as the previously mentioned Ceph Object Gateway, with an S3 interface have one central feature in common: They use a protocol that was not intended by Amazon for use post-implementation. Amazon S3 is not an open protocol and is not available under an open source license. The components underlying Amazon's S3 service are not available in open source form either.

All S3 implementations on the market today are the result of reverse engineering. The starting point is usually Amazon's S3 SDK, which developers can use to draw conclusions about which functions a store must be able to handle when calling certain commands and what feedback it can provide. Even Oracle now operates an S3 clone in its own in-house cloud, the legal status of which is still unclear.

For the users of programs like MinIO and for their manufacturers, this uncertain status results in at least a theoretical risk. Up to now Amazon has watched the goings-on and has not taken action against S3 clones. Quite possibly the company will stick to this strategy. However, it cannot be completely ruled out that Amazon will tighten the S3 reins somewhat in the future. The group could justify such an action, for example, by saying that inferior S3 implementations on the market are damaging the core brand, which in turn could have negative consequences for companies that use S3 clones locally.

If Amazon were to prohibit MinIO, for example, from selling the software and providing services for it by court order, users of the software would be out in the rain overnight. MinIO would then continue to run, but it would hardly make sense to operate it and would therefore pose an immanent operating risk.

Unclear Situation

How great the actual danger is that this scenario will occur cannot be realistically quantified at the moment. For admins, then, genuine security that a functioning protocol is available in the long term can only be achieved with the use of open source approaches.

A prime example would be OpenStack Swift, which in addition to the component, is also the name of the protocol itself. However, the number of solutions on the market that implement OpenStack Swift is tiny: Besides the original, only the Ceph Object Gateway with Swift support is available. Real choice looks different.

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