Unified Storage: Combining Block-Level and File-Level Storage

Data Backup & Archive

What Is Unified Storage?

Unified storage, also known as network unified storage (NUS), is a storage system that makes it possible to run and manage file-based storage and object-based storage from a single device.

Unified storage is designed to simplify the management of a large storage infrastructure by consolidating data storage from multiple workloads into a single, limitlessly scalable platform.

This is part of a series of articles about data backup.

In this article:

How Unified Storage Works

A unified storage architecture provides a single point of management for all storage-related tasks, including provisioning, allocation, backup, and recovery. It also uses advanced features such as snapshots, and data replication facilitate data resiliency and data protection.

One of the key benefits of unified storage is that it combines block and object storage protocols, including the S3 API, NFS, and SMB. This allows users to access their data from a variety of platforms and applications, regardless of the underlying storage technology. Unified storage also supports multiple operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.

Unified Storage: Benefits and Drawbacks

Unified storage offers numerous advantages:

  • Centralized management and administration: Consolidates data management, relieving administrators from managing multiple tools and isolated storage pools.
  • Cost efficiency: Consolidates storage resources and can lead to significant savings in overall cost.
  • Increased efficiency: By blending diverse storage platforms into a single device, unified storage minimizes hardware requirements. This simplifies maintenance and reduces overheads.
  • Easier scalability: In a unified storage system, a single dashboard shows the amount of unused capacity in the entire storage pool and enables scaling as needed.
  • Intelligent data management: Unified storage systems provide features like replication and tiering, which help manage data effectively across multiple platforms, including cloud services.
  • Improved security: Unified storage systems provide built-in capabilities like data encryption and access controls to protect data at rest and in transit.

Longer lifespan for applications: Legacy applications created for a specific storage type can leverage unified storage to work with file, and object-based data. This can lengthen an application’s lifespan, removing the need for refactoring.

A drawback of unified storage includes:

  • Performance limitations: Compared with storage platforms that are dedicated to a single use case, a shared storage platform can reduce the level of control over I/O in object or block-based storage, causing erratic or decreased storage performance.

Considerations When Choosing Unified Storage

Here are a few considerations you should take into account when selecting a unified storage solution.

Data Management Capabilities

In a unified storage solution, all data types should be managed within a single storage pool to provide consistent, best-practices data management. The solution should provide unified control over all data systems from one interface. This also ensures easier installation, configuration, and health monitoring.

Scalability Across All Storage Types

Unified storage systems should provide the ability to increase or decrease storage capacity for a data type without compromising performance or moving the data to an isolated silo. The solution should be able to flexibly scale both file and object data, adapting and expanding as necessary, while making the best use of the underlying storage resources.

Meeting SLAs for Performance-Sensitive Applications

In many organizations, it is critical to meet service level agreements (SLAs), and failure to do so might have serious financial and legal implications. Thus, IT managers, particularly those in the enterprise space with stringent demands, should carefully test unified storage solutions to ensure they can meet the required SLAs.

Related content: Read our guides to distributed storage and storage tiering

Cloudian: Massively Scalable On-Premise Unified Storage

Cloudian® HyperStore® is a limitessly scalable storage software platform that is fully compatible with the AWS S3 API. With the release of HyperStore software version 8, the solution combines file and object storage management into a single management environment. A single screen gives you a view of both. Objects and files share an exabyte-scalable storage pool in HyperStore 8’s clustered storage environment. To optimize performance, files are initially stored in a file cache for low-latency access to recently stored and frequently-used files.

Learn more about Cloudian HyperStore for unified storage.

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