Object Storage Serves Cloud Storage Environments

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By Mark Goros

Cloud storage has changed the rules for deploying simpler, infinitely scalable and more affordable storage. So it makes little sense to burden a cloud storage platform with storage systems that are based on 20th century file systems that inhibit administration, scalability and cost.

Selecting the correct underlying storage system can greatly impact the success or failure of implementing cloud storage.  The characteristics of object storage are ideally aligned with a cloud storage infrastructure, delivering a superior cloud storage experience with better scalability, accessibility and affordability, according to Caringo Inc., the leading provider of Object storage software that enables high availability clustered storage for active and archived content. Here are five reasons an object storage infrastructure should be the foundation for a cloud storage system:

Object Storage
A key to the cost efficiency delivered with cloud storage is to begin with an affordable storage system. The complexities and restrictions of outmoded file systems that power traditional NAS and SAN storage arrays can easily offset the potential cost savings of cloud storage by complicating storage administration, limiting scalability with artificial capacity caps and enforcing vendor lock-in with expensive, proprietary hardware.  
Object storage is a much better fit for cloud infrastructures. Instead of using a complex, difficult to manage and antiquated file system, object storage systems leverage a single flat address space that enables the automatic routing of data to the right storage systems, specifies the content lifecycle and keeps both active and archive data in a single tier with the appropriate protection levels.  This allows object storage to provide better value by aligning the value of data and the cost of storing it without requiring oppressive management overhead to manually move data to the proper tier while providing infinite scalability to support the capacity-on-demand capability of cloud storage.  Object storage is also designed to run at peak efficiency on commodity server hardware.

Object Storage Provides Easy Access via HTTP
Cloud storage is commonly delivered as a Storage as a Service (SaaS) application via the Internet, so using HTTP as the primary protocol to access object storage pools vastly simplifies the process for cloud storage providers to integrate object storage systems into their service offerings.

In object storage systems there is no directory hierarchy (or “tree”) and the object’s location does not have to be specified the way a file’s directory path has to be known to retrieve it.  This location transparency enables object storage systems to scale to petabytes and beyond without limits on the number of files (objects), file size, or file system capacity, such as the 2 terabyte restriction that is common for Windows and Linux file systems.

Performance Scales as the Cluster Grows
In an object storage cluster, performance scales linearly as more nodes are added. As new server nodes running on commodity hardware come online, they provide massively parallel increases in both processing and I/O capacity across the cluster. Additionally, the object storage cluster is totally symmetrical, allowing the workload to be automatically load balanced across all nodes in the cluster and avoiding hot-spots to better support cloud bursting and other peak demand events.

Reliable archiving is a must-have for any cloud storage system. By some estimates, 70 percent of data that is generated is never accessed after its initial creation and remains static, while another 20 percent is categorized as semi-active and is rarely accessed. For compliance requirements, state-of-the-art object storage systems establish the authenticity of a specific content object by first creating a universally unique ID (128-bit uuid) for the location-transparent address. A digital fingerprint (hash or digest) can be combined with the uuid and these values can be stored as a content seal. Active access and long term archiving co-oexist in the same single object based storage tier.

No Need for Cloud Backup & Recovery
In a cloud storage system the old paradigm of data protection via backup and recovery
is eliminated as the entire object storage cluster is an online, scalable file repository, not a backup or offline archive solution. All files are always online and available, doing away with the cost and administrative overhead of a separate backup application with no more worries about meeting backup windows or recovery time objectives.

Object storage systems can easily search for data in the cloud without knowing specific filenames, dates or traditional file designations. They can also use the metadata to apply service level agreements (SLAs), policies for routing, distribution and disaster recovery, retention and deletion, as well as automate storage management. These are functions that file systems just cannot address. With the exception of setting a basic retention period, file systems do not provide the capability to validate the authenticity of content, manage lifecycle policies or support custom metadata.

Cloud storage is changing the way companies think about storage in an era of runaway capacity growth of unstructured data by enabling capacity-on-demand and other benefits.  Similarly, object storage is changing the way companies think about storage systems, eliminating outdated concepts that are longer viable in an era of cloud-based storage environments with multi-petabyte capacities.  The scalability, simplicity and accessibility of object storage are perfectly aligned with the requirements and benefits of cloud storage, making object storage an essential consideration for any IT organization or service provider that is considering building public, private or enterprise clouds.

Mark Goros is CEO of Caringo.


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