The role of an object storage system in the cloud

It can be hard to get your head around object storage if you're like many data storage professionals and have been focused solely on block and file storage. However, to clearly understand the latest cloud storage offerings and strategies, data storage managers need to be able to define and explain object storage and have a clear picture of why it shows up on a short list of cloud storage criteria.

In this expert video, Marc Staimer explains the way an object storage system contributes to the successful development of private cloud architectures. Staimer, founder and senior analyst at Beaverton, Ore.-based Dragon Slayer Consulting, is a frequent contributor to and a regularly featured speaker at Storage Decisions conferences. In this Chicago 2012 Storage Decisions seminar presentation, Staimer refers to object storage as one of the most important cloud storage terms to know.

How do object storage systems differ from block storage and file storage? “Basically, it doesn’t have a metadata database,” Staimer explained. “The metadata is stored with the data. So you're not scaling based on a database. You're not scaling based on a file system or addressability.”

An object storage system puts emphasis on individual chunks on data that are loosely federated. “That means you don’t need to have a single or aggregated namespace governing all the data,” Staimer said. “Instead, you have a looser federation of individual data elements that control their own destiny. It eliminates the need for cache coherency, the need for every node to be aware of the objects owned by the other node. The data is based on its own rule; it’s not based on the physical layout of the storage. What that means, ultimately, is that the data is allowed to scale based on those rules vs. based on the storage."

The more metadata you have, of course, the more data you have to process to get to your data. When considering primary storage and the cloud, latency is always among the chief concerns. "You do add latency,” Staimer acknowledged. But the advantages of cloud storage are substantial. “That huge amount of metadata gives you the ability to automate many of your manual tasks.”

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