Object storage is still fairly new, when compared with more traditional storage systems such as file or block storage. So, what is object storage, exactly? You can think of it as a form of unstructured data storage that eliminates the scaling limitations of traditional file storage.
Unlike the addressing hierarchy used with traditional file storage, object storage employs a flat file system that can grow without limit. Hence, it’s able to hold huge volumes of unstructured data such as audio, video, emails, health records, and documents. For a visual representation of object storage, watch our overview video:
There are several factors that have been driving strong object storage adoption in recent years.
Why Object Storage?
- Exabyte scalable
Unlike file or block storage, object storage allows for scalability to an exabyte and beyond. While file storage can hold many millions of files, you will eventually hit a ceiling. With unstructured data growing at 50+% per year, more and more users are hitting those limits, or they expect to in the future.
- Scale out architecture
Object storage makes it easy to start small and grow. In enterprise storage, a simple scaling model is golden. And scale-out storage is about as simple as it gets: you simply add another node to the cluster and that capacity gets folded into the available pool.
- Customizable metadata
While file systems have metadata, the information is limited and basic (date/time created, date/time updated, owner, etc.). Object storage allows users to customize and add as many metadata tags as they need to easily locate the object later. For example, an X-ray could have information about the patient’s age and height, the type of injury, etc.
- High sequential throughput performance
Early object storage systems did not prioritize performance, but that’s now changed. Now, object stores can provide high sequential throughput performance, which makes them great for streaming large files. Also, object helps eliminate networking limitations. Files can be streamed in parallel over multiple pipes, boosting usable bandwidth.
- Flexible data protection options
To safeguard against data loss, most traditional storage options utilize fixed RAID groups (groups of hard drives joined together), sometimes in combination with data replication. The problem is, these solutions generally lead to one-size-fits-all data protection. You can not vary the protection level to suit different data types.
Object storage employs a flexible tool called erasure coding that is similar to old-fashioned RAID in some ways, but is far more flexible. Data is striped across multiple drives or nodes as needed to achieve the needed protection for that data type. Between erasure coding and configurable replication, data protection is both more robust and more efficient.
- Support for industry standards
Back when object was launched, the interfaces were proprietary. Few application developers showed interest in writing to these interfaces. Then Amazon created the Simple Storage Service, or “S3”. They also created a new object storage interface, also called the “S3 API”. The S3 interface has since become a de-facto standard for object storage data transfer.
The existence of a standard changed the game. Now, S3-compatible application developers have a stable and growing market for their applications. And service providers and S3-compatible storage vendors such as Cloudian have a growing user set deploying those applications. The combination sets the stage for rapid market growth.
- Lower total cost of ownership (TCO)
Cost is always a factor in storage. And object offers the most compelling story, both in hardware/software costs and in management expense. By allowing you to start small and scale, object storage minimizes waste, both in the form of extra headcount and unused space. And object is inherently easy to manage. With limitless capacity within a single namespace, configurable data protection, geo replication, and policy-based tiering to the cloud, it’s a powerful tool for large-scale data management.
To learn more about Cloudian’s fully native S3-compatible object storage in your data center, and how it can cut down your TCO, check out our free trial today. Or visit Cloudian.com for more information.