Some IT professionals like to put the cart before the horse and get caught up with the technology, but we neglect the “information” alluded to in “information technology” at our own peril. The whole point of IT as a function is to optimize data and the way it’s accessed, secured, transported, organized and stored. To that end, the arrival of object storage and what it can do for business operations and end users remains a big deal.
Data storage and file metadata are critical to most businesses in 2018, and many IT teams have begun bumping into the limitations of what legacy file storage technology can accommodate. There are many ways to store data, and recent advances in object storage technology have made it a practical, affordable, and massively powerful new way forward for companies wrestling to save and access lots of files, video, images, backups, — not to mention all the metadata necessary to contextualize those files. Is it time for you to move on up to object storage? Should you go it alone, or bring on an Infrastructure as a Service partner to tackle the transition? How much does Object Storage cost, and what are the savings? This article and Atlantic Metro’s solution overview will give you the skinny on object-based storage and how it differs from file and block.
Quick Recap of Block and File
Historically, IT leaders have chosen to store primary data as blocks and files in servers, either on-site or at a dedicated data center. (Managing server colocation for companies has been one of our core service offerings for nearly 20 years now)
Traditional enterprise data storage uses block storage devices (such as a typical hard drive) accessed remotely over a network. As the name implies, block storage orders data in bytes, which get further organized into structured fixed blocks for easy indexing and robust search functionality. You will often see this in SAN (Storage Area Network) setups.
Block storage is excellent for data that is frequently being accessed and updated by applications, as well as real-time systems such as transactional databases and virtual machine file system (VMFS) volumes. In general, block storage best performs with structured data.
However, block storage has its limitations. Scalability is limited, and upgrades can take longer than an object storage environment. Moreover, block comes with no storage-side metadata associated with each block (other than the address of that block), and so use with unstructured data can affect negatively performance.
By way of contrast — file storage refers to an approach employing a hierarchy of files and folders, such as a NAS (Network Attached Storage) system. In most cases, this file storage system is a level of abstraction on a block storage device, and this can often waste capacity on the device because file lengths do not usually correspond with typical block sizes.
Companies deploy SAN and NAS storage reasonably proximate to other servers and computing infrastructure. Eventually, data gets moved to cold storage when its no longer necessary to keep easily accessed. The shortfall of that move is apparent, and many IT teams are increasingly finding that business operations demand longer tails on how long data needs to stay accessible, especially with health records storage and other compliance and regulations heavy industries.
Object Storage in a Nutshell:
Object Storage offers significant advantages in many use cases, and its developers have predicated it on a very different approach to organizing and accessing data and storage disks. There is no file system, and instead, all of the data and (very robust) metadata gets stored in the (eponymous) “object,” which are in turn collected and stored in “buckets.” Consequently, and rather elegantly, the overarching file system and structured database that once provided the scaffolding for naming, permissions, creation times, and other data points are eliminated. The data and metadata stay together — allowing for unrivaled scalability and tremendous flexibility in classifying and accessing the information. Each object receives a unique identifier, and all of the objects can readily be accessed using networked apps. The design is brilliant in its simplicity.
Moreover, our object storage solution quite readily allows you to make redundant copies of all of your objects — providing unmatched reliability free of any geographic constraints.
New object storage solutions have been designed from the start to accommodate unstructured data in ways that make it an ideal approach for cloud environments. Object storage liberates the unstructured data from fixed formats and consists of disparate size files. Thanks to Amazon Web Services’ S3 (Simple Storage Service) standards, users get storage that’s readily accessible over a network. Atlantic Metro and other service providers have stuck with the AWS S3 standard — sticking close to the de facto standard, but offering much more robust assistance and support. As with cloud hosting, we don’t just throw you into the deep end, and you get the best of both worlds.
Object Storage: Do You Need It?
While files and folders have always been nested in legacy tech, buckets remain un-nested and distinct from one another. They remain available via a single namespace and can grow from a few terabytes to petabytes in size. A unified logical view of the data can account for numerous storage disks, which allows for easy, elegant information management.
Importantly — there is no upper limit on the amount of data you can store. None. Moreover, the storage capacity can quickly scale to meet the demands of your business operations, making the solution a massive time and money saver right from the start.
Object storage shines when you have unstructured data sets that need to be accessed regularly but rarely overwritten. Static websites, backups, and digital media (videos, photos, etc.) should be stored in an object storage environment if possible.
Remote back-end storage is another great use case for object storage. Access to complex metadata facilitates for efficient distribution and parallel access to objects.
It’s very important to recognize that object storage was not created as a replacement for NAS file access and sharing. Without the locking and sharing mechanisms needed to maintain a single accurately updated version of a file, the object storage cannot fill this role, but it can be used to free up space on your NAS by moving less frequently used files to your object storage environment.
Ideal Use Cases:
- Industries with large datasets and long-tale storage requirements
- Video and raw image data
- Health records, medical scans and imaging records
- Financial services, including trading data and regulatory compliance
- Big data outputs
- Static Web content
- Large log files requiring further analysis or long-term archival storage
Lower Costs: The Bottom Line
Choosing a data storage strategy will probably always turn on time and budget necessities. For many use cases, a solution based on the S3 framework is a smart investment that can make plans to scale out future operations much more efficient and predictable. However, when searching for a provider, you should be aware of the costs. In addition to their standard storage rate, Amazon S3 and many other object storage vendors charge you each time you access your data, as well as for bandwidth.
This is where Atlantic Metro is different. We charge one single, low rate based on storage used, with no additional fees. This delivers significant, consistent savings, with none of the hassle.
To speak with an object storage sales engineer about your needs and to get specific pricing or to discuss a custom infrastructure solution that matches your needs — call: 212-792-9950
Atlantic Metro makes technology simple, manageable, and affordable by offering a complete computing solution with one point of payment, support, and accountability. With a proven track record, Atlantic Metro is committed to helping customers minimize risk, lower costs, and reduce time to market. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand IT infrastructure solutions with the highest level of customer care.