Your business is based on your data!
For any business to run successfully, data needs to be reviewed on a regular basis with a fresh perspective to understand the underlying opportunities and challenges to take appropriate actions to improve the business. Thus, efficient, and economical data delivery, as well as the right storage infrastructure, are also critical to enabling better business decisions. The start of a successful business is with the underlying storage architecture and external interface.
IDC estimates that unstructured data will make up 80% of all data worldwide by the year 2025. Since the early 1990s, NAS file servers which are file-level as opposed to block-level storage, have been the preferred method of storing unstructured data. Typically, they provide file access using NFS, SMB, or AFP protocols. Windows environments use SMB (formerly CIFS) for file access, while non-Windows systems use NFS. However, the explosive growth of unstructured data has strained the capabilities of traditional NAS file servers. At the time, NAS – the most popular unstructured computing platform – did not have the capacity to handle petabytes and certainly failed to provide the resilience necessary to store long-term data.
What led to the invention of Object Storage?
Concerns about performance, scale, data protection, and cost necessitated the development of Object Storage! Object storage was born from the need to store large volumes of unstructured data for long periods with high levels of resilience. The problem of securing data in a large-scale archive is generally solved with new protection methods, like erasure coding in object storage.
What is Object Storage?
Object Storage is a method of storing and retrieving sets of data as collections of single items that are uniquely identifiable. The object storage system differs from NAS and SAN systems in several ways. A significant difference is that object storage does not use volumes, LUNs, or RAID. Rather than blocks, data objects are stored in containers (also known as buckets). Object Storage uses erasure coding instead of traditional RAID to protect extremely large data sets reliably and cost-effectively at a fraction of the cost of traditional RAID protection algorithms. The metadata that object storage adds to the file eliminates the tier structure of file storage, and the entire data is stored in a flat address space, called a storage pool. By providing more in-depth knowledge about the use and function of data in the pool of storage, this metadata is what makes object storage successful. Since object-based storage utilizes a flat-file system instead of the addressing hierarchy used with traditional storage, the objects can be scaled limitless.
Benefits of Object storage:
When using object-based storage, you can store and manage data volumes in the terabyte (TB), petabyte (PB), and beyond the range. The scale-out architecture of object storage allows capacity, processing, and networking resources to be added horizontally by adding nodes. While file storage is organized hierarchically, object storage is flat, defining a single namespace where objects are identified by their unique identifiers. Unique object identifiers provide great scalability and alleviate some of the limitations of traditional file systems that involve Inodes. Additionally, object storage systems replace the standardized attributes of files with customizable metadata that not only captures characteristics of objects but also allow those characteristics to be customized. This is especially useful for applications that require access to other systems, analysis of data, and business intelligence. Archive and backup file storage are the first enterprise object use cases. Moving infrequently used files to the object format eliminates significant T1 storage costs as well as backup software, server, network, and storage costs. Additionally, object storage lets you group storage devices into large pools and distribute them across multiple locations. Not only does this provide unlimited scalability, but it also improves data availability and resiliency.
Traditional SAN and NAS storage systems have fundamental limitations to support massive amounts of data. For example, when it comes to data protection, it’s not very realistic to back up hundreds of petabytes of data. Object storage systems are designed to work without backups and do not require them. Instead, the data is stored with enough redundancy that it is never lost. There are a couple of ways this can be achieved. The first is by keeping multiple replicas of the data (RAID and replication). However, this can be very capacious intensive since you need enough storage to save the additional copies.
The second, and more efficient model, is through erasure coding. When using eraser coding, data is encrypted in a way in which it only requires a subset of the data to reproduce the original data. This is conceptually like RAID-5’s ability to retrieve the original data from the remaining drives in a RAID set that experiences a drive failure, except it is 10x more efficient!
One of the best uses of object storage is archiving and backing up files. And one of the primary reasons companies is turning to object storage is cost. Unlike enterprise NAS and SAN arrays, object storage can be considerably less expensive. For example, according to Gartner, the TCO for legacy storage systems is approximately $.30/GB/month. Object/Cloud storage is much closer to $.02/GB/month. You can do the math, but the savings can be substantial and continuing to use enterprise NAS and SAN arrays for archival or backup data can be a poor use of resources. Note to the enterprise consumer – if you are a Data Domain user, look at archiving to Object storage data that is infrequently used. This will save you millions in Data Domain costs! Object stores can scale to hundreds of petabytes in a single namespace without suffering any sort of performance degradation. They minimize costs, using techniques like erasure coding to maximize usable disk space. Beyond that, object storage offers data management functionality that traditional storage approaches can’t begin to touch, like versioning, customizable metadata, and embedded analytics.
While files and blocks are available to an operating system, object storage is accessed via a RESTful API’s to perform various storage functions. API applications like Amazon’s Simple Storage Services (S3) make objects accessible via HTTP(S) and facilities management functions related to authentication, permissions, and file properties. Moreover, every interaction with an object uses simple commands like PUT, GET, UPDATE, and DELETE. In many cases, companies are developing (or rewriting) their applications to take advantage of object storage instead of traditional SANs or NASs. In the meantime, most backup and archiving software solutions support writing data to S3.
Implementing an Object Store
Despite StorageX’s ability to move data to lower-cost storage tiers (for example, flash drives to magnetic drives), one of the most common use cases we encounter involves customers wanting to archive infrequently accessed data into an object store. StorageX natively supports the largest on-premises and cloud-based object stores. A StorageX user can analyse their unstructured data sets and archive them to an object store immediately, or on a schedule. In addition, the Archive provides an opportunity to create additional custom tags specific to the job. These custom tags are added to a companion metadata object file and saved in the object-store.
At any future time, customers can use the StorageX Retrieval Portal or any S3-compliant browser to query and retrieve files stored in the object-store. Additionally, since the companion metadata object file is stored in an industry standard JSON format, customers can use enhanced analytics or BI tools to query the data.
Object storage evaluation begins with a complete analysis of your existing data. Know what, where, when, and why of file metadata. Based on this analysis, you will be able to determine the optimal use of Object storage while maintaining SLAs and reducing costs!
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What Is Object Storage? – Object vs. File vs. Block | NetApp
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File vs Block vs Object Storage: 3 Storage Types | DataCore
Object Storage: An Introduction | IBM
Why Object Storage? A Systems Engineer Explains (westerndigital.com)