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Ceph boss Sage Weil resigns: civil rights instead of distributed storage

The distributed object storage Ceph has blossomed into a popular alternative to conventional storage such as SAN or NAS solutions in recent years. Its inventor, Sage Weil, was in charge of the product over its entire lifespan. However, the project has now lost this: In a message to the Ceph user mailing list, Weil announced that he would hand over the leadership of the project this year. As a developer, according to his own assumption, he will still be involved in Ceph “Quincy”, which is currently in development. According to his own statement, Weil will no longer work significantly on the subsequent “R” version. And not only that: Weil will also be leaving Red Hat and reducing its development activities.

This marks a turning point for software. Say because it was Ceph as part of his dissertation in 2007 conceived and worked out as a concept. The idea of ​​distributed object storage was no longer new – but Weil turned the theory into software that administrators could actually install and use. And on top of that, it was under a free license. If the focus was originally on offering a file system compatible with POSIX, the priorities soon changed: In the wake of cloud computing, the emulation of block storage based on object storage as a virtual hard disk for VMs was soon more important.

As a spin-off from Dreamhost, in which Weil was also significantly involved, he founded Inktank with a few followers as the commercial home for Ceph and was so successful from the start that Red Hat soon became interested in Inktank – and swallowed it in 2014. As the previous CTO, Weil became Red Hat’s new head of Ceph, so he stayed on board and continued to set the technical direction.

Weil gathered a relatively small group of veteran Ceph programmers around large parts of the Ceph development. Under the leadership of this team, Ceph has repeatedly made major technological leaps: The Ceph Block Device and the Ceph Object Gateway were identified as ready for productive use at an early stage. CephFS followed as the actual nucleus of the software – a stair joke in history – only in 2016 with the release for productive environments. The technical record of Weil’s tenure as Ceph boss is largely flawless. On top of that, Weil is considered personable and extremely popular within the storage and cloud community.

Now, however, he is drawn to new realms. In the mail in which he officially announced his departure, he explains the background to this. Accordingly, he participated in VoteAmerica as part of the 2020 US presidential election. This is a civil rights organization that helps Americans navigate the complicated US electoral system with voter registration. This work, according to Weil, impressed him – and reminded him of the old days when the Ceph community consisted of a handful of people and was able to decide and implement far-reaching changes much more effectively than today.

Weil wants to repeat his commitment for the upcoming midterm elections in the USA. Basically, he sees himself in the future in an environment in which the issue of civil rights plays a major role. This does not completely rule out an involvement in IT, but it should become less likely.

According to Weil and Red Hat, Ceph users don’t have to worry – and for several reasons. On the one hand, Red Hat has meanwhile transferred a large part of the responsibility of Ceph to the associated Foundation, which is a bulge of the Linux Foundation. On the other hand, the technical supervision of the storage solution was previously with Sage Weil, but according to his own statement, Sage Weil has it long before his official announcement the handover of all relevant responsibilities has already been initiated. The innermost Ceph circle around him should have known about the change much earlier than the public now, the handover is already underway.

It should therefore be practically ruled out that the Ceph development loses speed or quality due to Weil’s departure. This is all the more true as Red Hat has already reaffirmed and renewed its support for Ceph. Nevertheless, the departure of Sage Weils is a historic turning point for Ceph and for the world of open source SDS.

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