What is Object Storage?
Let’s do this, fam. It’s time for the last one! In our previous two blogs, we discussed the pros and cons of block and file storage types. Now, let’s be objective and discuss our final storage platform (spoiler alert: it’s also our favorite!).
What is Object Storage?
As its name suggests, object storage implies sorting out and designating each particular piece of data as a separate object. In practice, all data is structured as self-contained units stored as objects at the same level in a flat environment. Simply put, information is kept in separate storehouses without files and folders, and every single piece of data contains associated metadata and a unique identifier to form a storage pool. A user can either set the value for fixed-key metadata or create both the key and value for metadata associated with each separate object.
Moreover, each object storage volume works as a self-contained repository that owns the data with a unique identifier applied, making it possible to find an object in the distributed system. Metadata contained within each object is of extreme importance concerning storing process itself because it preserves valuable information such as age, privacies/securities, or access contingencies. What does this mean in practice? Imagine accessing every bit of information, no matter how specific it is. Object storage technology uses metadata and identifiers to find any detail you search for. You’ll need to utilize an HTTP-capable application programming interface (API) to access and manage objects within the storage repository.
Pros & Cons of Object Storage
As with any other technology, object storage naturally has a definitive list of pros and cons. Let’s look at some of them.
- Optimized Resources: One of the most compelling features of object storage systems is that the amount of unstructured data they can potentially handle is virtually unlimited. Object storage technology is set apart from file or block storage because its approach to storing and managing data applies the hierarchical model in organizing information. Practically, when you are expanding a block or file storage system, you expect at one moment or the other to encounter certain limitations. The growing environment gets cumbersome, and the system can not handle large amounts of unstructured data without dropping the ball in terms of performance. Within a flat hardware environment with equal access to all units, storing large volumes of unstructured data becomes infinitely more manageable, which has already proven to be an invaluable asset in fields such as artificial intelligence or machine learning.
- Infinite Scalability: Every organization butts up against the scalability challenge when they need more storage space. In an object storage environment, you can easily add new hardware and configure it to keep up with your growing requirements. When storage runs out of space, all you need to do is merely add another array, and that’s it, problem solved. You can add as much additional storage as you need — the sky’s the limit. This practice has been streamlined for cloud object storage which creates near infinite scalability for the end user without the hardware management.
- Rich Metadata: Object-based storage manages and manipulates data storage as distinct units kept in a single storehouse. Instead of ingraining data in files inside other folders and building a hierarchical structure, object storage adds all metadata relevant to the file to separate pieces of data within the object, with a custom identifier attached. Comprehensive metadata capabilities enable us to store everything in a flat and accessible storage pool.
- Simple to Use: Metadata makes it so convenient for the users to gain value from data and retrieve anything they need without any setbacks. Every single piece of data has a unique identifier attached to associated metadata. That means the data is not only easy to access, but you can also search and find every bit of information you may ever need, tied to an object, however obscure it is.
- Object Lock: A much-requested feature often showing up regarding the backup and recovery use case deals directly with preventing users from being able to change or delete their data. In simple terms, make it immutable. Object lock is a component of object storage versioning, a feature that ensures that when objects are overwritten, a version of them is kept in perpetuity. Object lock takes this to a further extreme by providing the complete immutability of objects at the software layer. It is kept unchangeable for however long the user sets the immutability window.
- Low Performance: In most standard configurations, the object storage system cannot rival the other storage types’ performances. Object-based storage needs more processing time than block and file storage, often generating increased latency.
- No Customization: The uniqueness of the object storage architecture has its downsides too. For example, you can do whatever you want with the metadata but not with the objects as they are. Once it is created, there is no room for adjustments. The only way to get around that is to replicate or overwrite the object through API commands.
- Price: Many object storage instances are found in cloud service providers, which offer low ingestion pricing on entry and charge multiple times the amount coming back. While object storage is straightforward to adopt and allows users to take advantage of near infinite data storage, the price often becomes a sticking point when it becomes time to extricate.
Object Storage Use Cases
Due to its inherent benefits, object storage finds use in various concepts. The use cases are numerous, but here are some of the most popular:
- Video Surveillance: In the modern world, you are surrounded by security cameras wherever you go. Such widespread use implies increased demand for highly scalable storage with easily accessed data to store all that footage. The combination of a surveillance system with an endlessly scalable object-based storage is a match made in heaven.
- Backup & Recovery: Despite the evident disadvantage of the object storage technology performance-wise, it remains a popular solution in use cases where performance is not a top-tier priority. Many organizations prefer to use the traditional object storage configuration as secondary storage to preserve data for an unspecified amount of time, be it months or years. The additional benefit of object lock ensures that backup data is never compromised.
- Media & Entertainment: Rich metadata allows extracting any specific details in almost no time, which admittedly makes working with media assets a walk in the park. Whether you want to find out whom the people featured in a video clip are or analyze the action occurring within, thanks to compelling metadata, you are generally a few clicks away from finding all you may need.
Each format has its perks. Each has drawbacks. Block storage is reliable and performative, so it is an excellent choice to work with high volumes of data, but it may be too pricey. File storage is much more familiar and recognizable, has a simple interface, easy to use, and is entirely searchable due to metadata. However, the bigger the storage array, the harder it is to manage (not to mention the prices).
Object storage has many advantages, such as rich metadata and unlimited scalability. Also, it is much more affordable than its competitors. The only major setback keeping it on the bench is that its traditional configurations lose in comparison when we are talking about performance. It is rarely used as a primary backup. However, at Object First, we have tailor-tuned our brand of object storage to take specific advantage of our hardware configuration, creating the perfect blend of immutability, simplicity, and performance!
Object, file, and block storage models are each suitable for unique requirements and specific environments. The most optimal way to pick your best option is to have a precise understanding of what it is that your organization needs the most. And when you think about what your organization may need regarding backup storage for Veeam, think about Object First!