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Meet the new object storage

Object storage is a method of storing information that differs from the popular file storage and venerable block storage that are the most familiar in IT. It is another a type of storage where information and metadata are both stored, although the metadata may be stored with the actual information or separately.

We often see new object storage products these days with slightly different implementations. While many of these new object storage offerings are designed to solve specific problems for customers, all have the opportunity to be used across many different applications and environments.

The object storage of today is different than what some may have been familiar with in the past. Previously, a content address was used to identify data put into a storage system such as the EMC Centera. The new object storage, for the most part, is storing files with associated metadata frequently using HTTP and REST. The metadata can be different depending on the implementation or the application or system, and contains information such as data protection requirements, authorizations and controls for access, retention periods, regulatory controls, etc.

New object storage systems address storage challenges, including:

• Massive scaling to support petabytes and even exabytes of capacity with billions of objects.

• Hyper performance data transfer demands that go beyond the traditional storage systems used in IT today.

• Compliancy storage for meeting regulatory controls for data including security controls.

• Longevity of information storage where data can be stored and automatically transitioned to new technologies transparent to access and operational processes.

• Geographic dispersion of data for multiple site access and protection from disaster.

• Sharing of information on a global scale.

For the vendors offering new object storage systems, success with narrowly targeted usages can eventually spread to opportunities in enterprises. They address problems that already apply in the enterprise, but perhaps not at the scale that requires object storage yet.

Some of the vendors offering object storage today include:
Amplidata AmpliStor
Data Direct Networks Web Object Scaler (WOS)
Dell DX7000
EMC Atmos
HP StoreAll
HDS Hitachi Content Platform
Nexsan Assureon
Quantum Lattus
Scality Ring Storage

Many of these vendors offer a file interface to their object storage as well as the native object API using HTTP and REST.

The types of object storage are developing so fast that the terminology is inconsistent between vendors. I attended the Next Generation Object Storage Summit recently that was convened by Greg Duplessie and The ExecEvent. This event was a great opportunity for vendors and analysts to discuss the technology, and how to describe it and understand the current market place. It was clear in the summit that the initial focus for new object storage should first be on the problems being solved today and then on the opportunities to move into more widespread usage.

This will be a developing area in the storage industry and Evaluator Group will develop a matrix to compare the different solutions.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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