Why Object Storage Is Suitable for Modern Backup Storage
Spotlight by IDC Custom Solutions
Object storage provides scalability, detailed metadata, and other capabilities that make it better for addressing modern backup and recovery demands than file or block storage.
Modern backup and recovery systems require modern storage, and object storage offers many advantages over file and block storage.
In today’s enterprise, backup systems are responsible for providing not only a safety net against data corruption and accidental deletions but also a last line of defense against ransomware attacks. Additionally, organizations’ data storage is growing, becoming more distributed and more valuable, meaning more of that storage must be protected. Therefore, modern backup storage needs to be scalable, immutable, and flexible.
Object storage can help organizations address today’s backup and recovery demands. By its design, object storage is better than file and block storage at handling use cases involving high volumes of static, unstructured data — which neatly describes the backup storage use case. Object storage creates a new version of a file with each modification, offering a level of built-in protection against ransomware. Further, object storage allows for highly customizable metadata for each object it stores, enabling greater context for robust, granular backup policy management.
- Object storage is ideal for modern backup storage and fulfills the use case better than file or block storage.
- Today’s backup storage needs to provide scalability, immutability, and flexibility as data protection requirements have become more stringent.
- Businesses demand closer integration between their backup software and their backup storage, but they don’t want the vendor lock in of purpose built backup appliances.
Today’s Backup and Recovery Demands
The importance of data backup and recovery systems has slowly elevated over the past two decades, spiking in the past five years or so. In the past, week-old data and hours of recovery time were not only acceptable but also expected. The use of magnetic tape for backup storage was also common practice, as the conventional IT wisdom at the time didn’t recognize a need for performant storage for backup systems.
Over time, due to a combination of rising compliance demands, business analytics, ransomware, and other factors, the need for organizations to protect their data became more prevalent. Today, backup serves as the primary source of recovering critical data and applications. Downtime and data loss during a recovery scenario must be kept to a minimum to ensure minimal business impact.
Additionally, organizations are generating more data and considering more of it to be valuable. As primary storage grows, backup repositories inevitably must scale alongside it. And because of the need to minimize business impact, scaling a backup storage solution isn’t as simple as adding more storage. Backup storage needs to be scalable without adversely affecting backup or recovery times.
Further, backup systems are the last line of defense against ransomware attacks, which have seen a surge in frequency since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. When cybercriminals have locked out access to critical data, a robust backup system can keep organizations from paying a ransom.
Malware Is Pervasive
Businesses are constantly under threat by malware. In an IDC survey, 90% of organizations acknowledged having been attacked by malware, and 87% of those organizations said they were attacked successfully. Nearly half of all organizations suffered a ransomware-type attack that blocked access to data or systems within the past three years. Of those, only 32% were able to fully recover compromised data and files from their backup systems without paying a ransom, while 45% said they paid the ransom to recover their data (source: IDC’s Future Enterprise Resiliency and Spending Survey, December 2021).
Aside from blocking access to data and inflicting costly downtime as organizations enact their data recovery responses, ransomware attacks also commonly result in data exfiltration. Criminals will then threaten to publish the stolen data unless a ransom is paid. While this is a security issue that extends beyond the scope of data protection, it underscores the importance that critical data — including backup copies — must be encrypted so that it becomes worthless to thieves.
Benefits of Object Storage Technology
Object storage addresses the demands of modern backup storage by providing scalability, immutability, and flexibility. It achieves greater scalability than file and block storage because of the difference in how they locate and discover objects. Object storage systems use a flat namespace architecture where all objects are given detailed metadata and placed in the same bucket of storage. File and block storage systems use a hierarchical architecture that places objects within folders and subfolders. Object storage locates objects via unique identifiers, whereas file and block storage does so by following pathways to where each individual object “lives.”
All storage systems can be expanded by adding more storage nodes, but for object storage, the processing toll for doing so is negligible.
Object storage cares only about each object’s unique identifiers, which allow it to quickly locate any object by its metadata no matter how distributed the storage system is. In contrast, file and block storage systems grow more complex with each additional storage node. As the number of users and files grows, more processing power is needed to locate a particular file.
Many object storage products support data immutability, which prevents the data within a bucket from being deleted or modified. Users can still make changes to files, but rather than overwrite the original, the object storage system creates a new version of the file. This capability offers a layer of data protection by ensuring there is always an older version to roll back to in case of accidental mishaps or ransomware attacks. The granularity, longevity, and security of the data immutability feature will vary by individual object storage product, but they are generally enough to create a repository that is difficult for cybercriminals to tamper with.
Although object storage currently doesn’t reach speeds suitable for highly transactional data storage, it is by no means slow. Object storage can be architected for higher performance through optimized software and faster hardware, such as flash. It is therefore flexible enough to provide multiple tiers of backup and recovery, including a highly performant tier for rapid recovery.
Additionally, several object storage vendors are investigating use cases beyond backup storage, such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning workloads. The broad acceptance of the S3 API and new and rearchitected products built on microservices- and container-oriented designs is a key market driver for object storage technology to mature and improve further.
Hallmarks of an Object Storage Backup Solution
Although object storage has great potential and may end up replacing some primary storage functions in the future, it’s important to focus on how the current capabilities of object storage make it well-suited for backup storage. IT buyers should look for the following features in an object storage solution when considering a purchase: prevent
- Immutability through S3 Object Lock or similar feature. Immutability and versioning are important for ransomware defense because criminals will often go after backup systems to ensure that organizations cannot recover their data. Locking down the backup storage helps mitigate this line of attack.
- Bucket-level policy setting. Not all data is created equal and needs the same level of protection or retention. Being able to create buckets with different tiers of backup policies allows organizations to optimize their backup storage by mapping their data to tiers according to criticality. This also lays the groundwork for future automation.
- Robust APIs. Data protection is trending toward adding security capabilities such as integration with security software to scan backups for malware or use access patterns to determine if an admin account was compromised. To prepare for this future, organizations should look for object storage products that allow for easier implementation of emergent security features via APIs.
Organizations have recently taken data resilience more seriously as a result of several high-profile ransomware attacks and increased frequency of such attacks during the COVID-19 era. One of the ways businesses are addressing this is by investigating specialized storage for their backup systems and ensuring their backup data can’t be tampered with or deleted. The two key ways storage products combat ransomware are through data immutability to prevent changes to data and robust security on the storage system itself to help ensure compromised admin credentials won’t allow criminals to simply overwrite immutability and retention policy settings.
In addition, customers are demanding tighter connection between their storage system and their backup system. They want not only the assurance that their third-party backup software works seamlessly with their enterprise storage software and hardware but also the convenience of needing to call only one vendor for support. These customer demands are addressed via vendors that offer purpose-built backup appliances, but demand for such appliances is countered by customers’ aversion to vendor lock-in.
Considering Object First
Object First was founded by Ratmir Timashev, cofounder and former CEO of Veeam, and Andrei Baronov, cofounder and former CTO of Veeam. Its flagship product, an S3-compatible object storage appliance, is built specifically to be a target for Veeam backup software. It can scale up to half a petabyte, enables Object Lock by default, and uses an appliance tier for rapid recovery and a cloud tier for long-term retention. Compatible cloud storage for the cloud tier includes AWS, Azure, Wasabi, and Backblaze.
Object storage itself is a robust architecture that can handle multiple use cases involving unstructured data, but Object First’s object storage software is optimized specifically for the backup storage use case. It’s designed to move large amounts of data to a single place rather than little bits of data to many different places.
In support of the modern demands of backup storage, Object First offers scalability by supporting up to four nodes and a capacity of up to half a petabyte. It provides immutability through S3 Object Lock and helps prevent unauthorized access by heavily restricting access to the contents of the appliance, including the storage software and operating system. For flexibility, Object First is architected for fast performance with flash drives and Veeam’s APIs for quickly writing data into object storage. It also stores everything in S3 format, allowing customers to migrate data more easily to a different, S3-compatible repository.
Because of its tailor-made object storage implementation and tight integration with Veeam backup software, Object First can be described as object storage that has been honed for the backup storage use case. It is aimed at midsize businesses and small enterprises that use Veeam backup and are looking to quickly and simply deploy a backup storage system that is guaranteed to be optimized for it.
Object First is a newcomer to both the object storage market and the data protection market, each of which has many vendors and little room for disruption. It will take time for the company to establish its niche and reputation in the market. Its attachment to Veeam via its foundation and its function gives the company a small boost in this regard, but how well it holds any real estate in the market will rely on the adoption of its technology.
Object First’s firm attachment to Veeam allows the company to offer a laser-focused product but limits the product’s total addressable market. According to IDC data, in 2021, Veeam was the second-highest data replication and protection software vendor in terms of revenue with $1.2 billion in sales. However, this accounts for only 11.4% of the total market share, meaning nearly 90% of all data replication and protection software revenue is going to other vendors. It may be ambitious for Object First’s new product to provide optimized modern backup storage for non-Veeam backup software out of the gate, but it will eventually have to provide such support.
The importance of backup systems has elevated in the face of frequent ransomware attacks threatening businesses worldwide. How backup data is stored heavily impacts how well the overall backup system functions. Object storage provides storage that is scalable, immutable, and flexible, allowing for greater data resiliency.
Because a backup system consists of backup and recovery software and the storage system that houses backup data, the connection between the software and the system is also important. Ideally, the backup software can fully utilize the potential of the storage system (both software and hardware) and vice versa.
The demand for data resiliency will only increase, creating market opportunity for object storage vendors to leverage the technology and address the challenges outlined previously. Object First puts forth a strong entry in this space by positioning its object storage offering as a quick and simple way to achieve scalable, immutable backup storage that is fully in sync with Veeam backup software.
Author: Johnny Yu, Research Manager, Storage and Computing Infrastructure Software Platforms