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Object storage: The blob creeping from niche to mainstream

Can you be scalable AND floatable?

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Surely not, not niche

These realities result in high growth of the large-scale archives of ‘big’ data files - videos, images, sensor information - that object storage technology is most suited to support, especially when you factor in the requirement for secure metadata organisation. Can we still call it a niche when these large-scale data files are generated everywhere and are part of our daily lives? Probably not.

Shane Harris, director at CommVault, explains that his firm’s Simpana 10 product exists in this space as a hardware-agnostic software storage solution. Simpana 10 supports file, block and object storage as well as tape, disk and cloud storage tiers.

“Simpana software can function as an object-based storage platform and can send data to external object storage platforms. We support solutions like the recently announced Quantum Lattus-D Object Storage platform and the OpenStack cloud. The real difference is when Simpana 10 with ContentStore is used as an object storage platform, we can intelligently expose data for more use cases through API integration,” he says. Simpana 10 integrates with cloud platforms through an HTTP/REST interface. Because users can access all of their stored information through a single platform, it will be easier for them to repurpose backup and archive data for a range of uses, including test and development, disaster recovery, eDiscovery, mobility and self-service access.

So back to our initial question. Is object storage a cure for failing filesystems in the new world of big data?

Quantum’s Fanichet issues a definite and defiant no. “Like any new architecture, next-gen object storage by itself is not a panacea. The very system that makes object storage so scalable (no central metadata index) also gives it vulnerability. File systems and databases have years of engineering work invested in them to assure data integrity and availability,” he points out.

Will object storage interest developers?

So is this the point at which DBAs and DevOps professionals (or even pure-play programmers) start to find storage interesting at last? HDS's Collier says yes! Her team regards the development capabilities of intelligent object stores as enormous and integration or SMART ingest into object stores will make interesting projects for many DBAs and DevOps professionals.

She is not alone. John Burwell, Basho consulting engineer and Apache CloutStack PMC member, says: “Looking at the prevalence of organisations using S3 to host static web content (e.g. software downloads, images, blogs, single page web applications etc.), I think we can say that DevOps and developers alike are currently replacing traditional database LOB storage with object storage. In addition to the cost savings and reduced operational complexity, the native HTTP interface provided by object storage provides a natural interface to access and integrate data directly into HTML documents.”

Technology platform shifts happen in roughly five-year cycles, so is there enough time for object storage to blossom? The smart money is on a much smaller time window than that, perhaps two to four years is all we have. From inherently software-defined (and hence more controllable) roots, an intelligent deployment of object storage will come into play only when needed.

In the words of Nexenta: “Object storage won’t be a niche technology. In fact, we believe that NAS will gradually relegate itself to specific applications requiring instant consistency and limited scale (see above). In addition to the big data wave, BYOD is evolving to become the primary driving force behind the growth of object storage. It will cross the chasm when we see back up, archive and disaster recovery being re-implemented via “objects”, thus boosting the already exponential growth of the “cloudified” petabytes.”

Data storage that is as controllable as a cloud isn’t an option; it will soon be a prerequisite for service-based virtualised computing architectures. Object storage could just be the answer. ®

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