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Object Storage in the Cloud: 4 Providers Compared

What Is Object Storage in the Cloud?

As your business expands, you have to manage isolated but rapidly growing pools of data from various sources, which are used for a variety of business processes and applications. Nowadays, many organizations grapple with a fragmented storage portfolio that slows down innovation and adds complexity to an organization’s applications. Object storage can help your organization break down these silos. It provides cost-effective, highly scalable storage that can retain any type of data in its original format.

Object storage is highly suitable for the cloud as it is flexible, elastic and can be more easily scaled into many petabytes to support indefinite data growth. The architecture manages and stores data as objects, as opposed to block storage, which relates to data as logical volumes, blocks and files storage, where data is stored in hierarchical files.

Related content: Read our guides on object storage vs block storage and object storage vs file storage.

4 Cloud Object Storage Options

Let’s review the object storage offerings by some of the world’s leading cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM Cloud.

AWS Object Storage

AWS provides a distinct variety of storage classes for different use cases. Amazon S3 is the main object storage platform of AWS, with S3 Standard-IA providing cool storage, and Glacier providing cold storage:

  • Amazon S3 Standard—this is the storage choice for information that is often accessed, and is great for numerous use cases including dynamic websites, cloud applications, content distribution, data analytics and gaming. It delivers high throughput as well as low latency.
  • Amazon S3 Standard-Infrequent Access (Amazon S3 Standard—IA)—this is a storage alternative for data which is accessed less often, such as disaster recovery and long-term backups.
  • Amazon Glacier—this highly durable storage system is optimized for data that is not often accessed, or “cold” data, such as end-of-lifecycle data kept for compliance and regulatory backup purposes. Data is archived for long-term storage, and is immutable and encrypted.

Azure Object Storage

Microsoft offers Azure Blob Storage for object storage in the cloud. Blob storage is suited to storing any form of unstructured data, such as binary or text. This includes videos, images, documents, audio and more. Azure storage offers high-quality data integrity, flexibility and mutability.

Blob storage is employed for serving documents or images directly to a browser, for retaining files for distributed access, streaming audio and video, writing to log files, disaster recovery, storing data for restore and backup, and archiving, so it can be analyzed by an Azure-hosted or on-premises service.

Azure has several storage tiers, including:

  • Hot access tier— for information that is in or anticipated to be in active use and staged for processing and subsequent migration to the Cool storage tier.
  • Cool access tier—for data that is intended to stay in the Cool tier for more than 30 days. This includes disaster recovery datasets and short-term backup, media content that is older and intended to be immediately available when drawn on and large data sets.
  • Archive access tier—for data which will stay in the Archive tier for more than 180 days, and which can tolerate hours of retrieval latency.

Note: The Archive storage tier is not accessible at the storage account level, but only at the blob level. Azure also provides a Premium tier, which is for workloads that need consistent and fast response times.

Google Cloud Storage

Google Cloud Storage (GCS) provides united object storage for all workloads. It has four classes for backup and archival storage and high-performance object storage. All four classes provide high durability and low latency:

  • Hot (high-performance) storage—GCS provides regional and multi-regional storage for high-frequency access information.
  • Multi-regional storage—allows for the storing of information that is often accessed around the world, including streaming videos, serving website content, or mobile and gaming applications.
  • Regional storage—allows for frequent access to information in the corresponding region of Google Compute Engine instance or Google Cloud DataProc, for example data analytics.
  • Nearline (cool) storage—for data that only needs to be accessed less than once a month, but several times a year. Suitable for backups and long-tail multimedia content.
  • Coldline (cool) storage—for data that only needs to be accessed less than once a year. Suitable for archival data and disaster recovery.

IBM Cloud Object Storage

IBM Cloud provides scalable and flexible cloud storage with policy-driven archive abilities for unstructured data. This cloud storage service is intended for data archiving, for example for the long term retention of data that is infrequently accessed, including for mobile and web applications, and for backup and analytics.

IBM has four storage-class tiers integrated with an Asperaâ high-speed information transfer option. This allows for the easy transfer of data from and to Cloud Object Storage, and query-in-place functionality.

IBM Cloud Object Storage class tiers:

  • Standard storage—for active workloads that need high performance and low latency, and data that requires frequent and multiple access in a month. Usage scenarios are for example, active content repositories, analytics, mobile streaming and web content, collaboration and DevOps.
  • Vault storage—for less active workloads which need real-time, on-demand access but only infrequently, up to once a month. Use cases include digital asset retention and backup.
  • Cold vault—for cold workloads, where data needs on-demand, real-time access when needed but is mainly archived. For example, data that is accessed several times a year. Common use cases involve long-term backup, large data set preservation such as older media content and scientific data.
  • Flex storage—this class tier is utilized for dynamic workloads (combining cold and hot workloads) and data based on access patterns. Typical use cases include cognitive workloads, cloud-native analytics and user-generation applications.

Cloud Object Storage Pros and Cons

The following are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of object storage in the cloud.

Cloud Object Storage Pros

The key advantages of object storage include:

  • Data is highly distributed, which ensures it is more resilient to hardware failures or disasters. This way, it is available even if various nodes fail.
  • Objects are kept in a flat address space, which minimizes complexity and scalability issues.
  • Data protection is built into this architecture in the form of erasure coding or replication technology.
  • Object storage is most suitable for cloud storage and static data. Common use cases for object storage include archiving and cloud backup—the technology functions best with data that is more frequently read than written to.
  • Object storage has developed to the point where it scales at the exabyte level and represents trillions of objects. The use of VMs or commodity hardware enables nodes to be added easily, with the disk space being used more efficiently.
  • Object storage systems, via the use of object IDs (OIDs) or identifiers, can gain access to any piece of data without knowing on which physical storage device, directory, or file system it resides on. The abstraction lets object storage devices operate with storage hardware configured in distributed node architecture. This way, processing power can scale together with data storage capacity.
  • I/O requests don’t need to pass via a central controller, allowing for a true global storage system for large amounts of data overseen by objects, physically kept anywhere, and retrieved through the internet or a WAN.

Cloud Object Storage Pros

The key disadvantages of object storage include:

  • Object storage systems are not steady enough for real-time systems, including transactional databases. An undesirable use case for object storage is an environment or application with a high transactional rate.
  • Object storage doesn’t guarantee that read requests will produce the most up-to-date version of the data.
  • This technology isn’t alway appropriate for applications that have high performance demands.
  • Cloud-based storage often ends up being more expensive because you need to pay for storage on an ongoing basis. With on-premises equipment you pay once and the storage is yours.

Bring Object Storage On-Premises with Cloudian

Cloudian® HyperStore® is a massive-capacity object storage device that is fully compatible with Amazon S3. It allows you to easily set up an object storage solution in your on-premises data center, enjoying the benefits of cloud-based object storage at much lower cost.

HyperStore can store up to 1.5 Petabytes in a 4U Chassis device, allowing you to store up to 18 Petabytes in a single data center rack. HyperStore comes with fully redundant power and cooling, and performance features including 1.92TB SSD drives for metadata, and 10Gb Ethernet ports for fast data transfer.

HyperStore is an object storage solution you can plug in and start using with no complex deployment. It also offers advanced data protection features, supporting use cases like compliance, healthcare data storage, disaster recovery, ransomware protection and data lifecycle management.

Learn more about Cloudian® HyperStore®.

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