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Solving ‘big storage’ problems requires new approaches

Dealing with information in IT operations includes delivering the resources to store and retrieve information as well as all the management and security requirements. Continued capacity demand creates challenges in adding more storage systems, adapting the data protection process for additional capacity, and ensuring that performance scales in parallel with capacity to meet application and system demands.

This continuum of managing storage gets disrupted when a big storage problem is introduced into IT. Big in this case means a large amount of unplanned capacity is introduced into IT. The large amount of data can come from new projects or acquisitions or from non-traditional data (not usually stored in IT) used for analytics. The capacity demand seen for these types of requirements may dwarf the existing storage systems and processes in IT currently.

Extending current environments usually doesn’t work for these large capacity situations. Public clouds or private clouds can add capacity more quickly, but adding capacity alone doesn’t solve the problem. The ability to move data and manage it  is also required.

The type of information growing fastest is unstructured data in the form of files.  The massive number of files presents another problem. Storing the potentially billions of files into file systems may not be possible or may result in slow access using the hierarchical index structures. Using next-generation object storage with a flat address space may be the answer. Most cloud storage offerings use object storage with RESTful access protocols such as Amazon S3. Object storage systems deployed within IT either independently or as part of private clouds uses protocols for objects or use gateway devices or file system interfaces to map file access to objects. So we see object storage used to solve the big storage or massive amount of data problem.

Object storage systems or software vary greatly in capability and support for access protocols. But solving the big storage problem really isn’t about object storage.  It’s about the problem and the approaches.  Object storage is a technology to use as part of the solution.

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

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