Open source champ Mark Shuttleworth invests $1M in Ceph storage startup

Mark Shuttleworth — billionaire, first-African-in-space, philanthropist and open-source aficionado — has opened his checkbook again, this time to invest $1 million in Inktank, the startup that wants to bring the Ceph distributed storage system into the enterprise. Shuttleworth, co-founder and former CEO of Canonical, funded much of the development of Ubuntu Linux with an initial $10 million cash infusion in 2004.

Ceph is an open-source storage subsystem that proponents say is more adaptable and less expensive than proprietary storage systems. Probably more to the point, it is also a competitor or alternative to the Swift storage system that is part of the OpenStack cloud platform. Ceph claims API compatibility with both Amazon(s amzn) S3 and Rackspace(s rax) Cloud Files.

Shuttleworth’s Inktank investment comes in the form of a convertible bond that will be used to fund growth of InkTank and the Ceph community around it. Inktank itself was spun out of DreamHost, a large hosting company,  last year as a sort of system integrator or consultant to help companies deploy Ceph. Inktank’s founder and CEO, Sage Weil, co-founded DreamHost. Last week, Los Angeles–based DreamHost announced its version of Ceph and (spoiler alert) Canonical talked up its integration of Ceph into its OpenStack implementation at the Linux Foundation’s CloudOpen conference last month.

In a recent interview, DreamHost CEO Simon Anderson likened Inktank’s model to Canonical’s. ”We spun Inktank out to help companies that compete with DreamHost use Ceph for all their storage needs. The beauty of Ceph is it enables cheaper storage than S3. The starting point for [DreamHost DreamObjects’ Ceph implementation] is 7 cents per gig — that’s quite a bit lower than Amazon object storage, which starts at 12 cents per gig,” he told me.

As more open source computing cloud options come into production from the OpenStack community, from CloudStack — which is now working with Basho to integrate Riak CS as a storage option — and from Eucalyptus, the landscape is getting more complicated and diverse. And then there’s always Amazon. It ain’t going anywhere.

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