The latest object storage systems are often misunderstood by potential buyers. This may be because these systems, capable of storing extremely large numbers of object and files, serve more than one type of environment. The messaging for one environment can leave an impression that the object storage system is not an applicable solution for another.
Based on Evaluator Group’s work with clients, we have discovered several ways to apply object storage. It helps to understand that in a majority of IT environments, a parallel IT organization has evolved. So you have the traditional IT group tasked with continuing to run current operations – keeping the lights on, if you will. Proficient in current operations, this group struggles with demands for more capacity and greater productivity. The second IT group in the parallel IT organization is the one charged with changing the delivery of services by creating and deploying a private or hybrid cloud.
Object storage can be used in both of these groups. For the traditional environment, object storage serves as a content repository to directly access information that may have been on primary or secondary systems before.
The system can meet the growing capacity demands by using replication and versioning, altering and simplifying the data protection model. This type of system adds value by also serving as a target for retained copies of backups and an online archive. The following diagram illustrates the traditional IT usage of object storage systems.
Use of object storage in private or hybrid clouds is understood but is somewhat hard to depict in a diagram. In general, object storage in a private cloud is a separate system used for many of the same purposes as traditional IT but with different access methods. The major difference is that object storage in private/hybrid clouds is the target for newly written applications that often deal with mobile devices and distributed access. A content repository is another major use case and many times is coupled with file sync and share software. As with traditional IT environments, object storage can serve as online archive and retained backup targets in the cloud. The following diagram shows use of object storage in private/hybrid clouds, representing it as a separate system (logically or physically) from the compute/storage node instances federated together for creating the cloud environment.
Object storage systems are really multi-dimensional with many uses in different environments. In the parallel IT groups that have evolved in organizations, object storage systems can be applied as solutions for growing capacity demands and solving data protection issues from the growth. As this dual applicability becomes better understood, expect more deployments.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).