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The Storage Network of the Future Will Feature Objects Prominently

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The Storage Network of the Future Will Feature Objects Prominently

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Old meets new head on when unstructured object storage systems are integrated with conventional array- and server-based SANs and NAS. Modern data-storage architectures must take advantage of the best each technology has to offer in order to address the soaring amount of data in organizations, and the need-it-now mentality of users.

What are we going to do with all this data?

That's the question organizations of all shapes and sizes are pondering as they consider their storage options. Increasingly, storage-area networks (SAN), network-attached storage (NAS), and object storage all play a role in your company's data strategy.

In Gigaom's November 13, 2014, cloud sector roadmap, object storage is identified as one of the cornerstones of infrastructure as a service. It uses the REST API to expose scalable object-based storage functions. In conjunction with a content delivery network (CDN), object storage delivers images, videos, documents, and other static data elements by caching the high-access items at the edge of the network, near consumers.

A primary distinction between network-attached storage and object storage is that the former uses a native file system, while the latter supports any file system, or none at all. Use of the REST API allows files to be stored and retrieved from any application that can make HTTP calls.

A popular use for object storage is to capture point-in-time snapshots of virtual machines, blocked storage, and managed database services. The five trends most likely to affect the object-storage market through mid-2016, according to Gigaom's analysis, are scalability and reliability; security and compliance; integration and interoperability; data management; and data ingestion.

The five trends projected to have the greatest impact on the object-storage market through mid-2016. Source: Gigaom

Security in particular poses some concerns for companies adopting object storage. Aspects to consider when planning an object-storage strategy include disposing data at the end of its life; API uptime; and read/write success rate.

Matching the storage approach to the data and its users

There will always be a mix-and-match aspect to devising the best data-management strategy for your company. For one thing, SANs and NAS have been the key to enterprise data storage for many years and show no signs of disappearing anytime soon. In a December 1, 2014, article, Computerworld's Chris Poelker points out that SAN and NAS are converging with each other, as well as with object storage and other new technolgies.

Old silos of data on various storage platforms in organizations are merging in a new converged infrastructure. Source: Computerworld

While object storage is still perceived as best for software-defined cloud storage of relatively static data elements (archived or accessed infrequently), its use will likely expand as access speeds increase and latency decreases.

In a December 3, 2014, article, The Register's Trevor Pott identifies strengths and weaknesses of the two primary storage options for enterprises:

  • Object storage is best when you have lots of unstructured data you access infrequently.
  • Server-based SANs are preferred when speed and low latency are most important.

According to Pott, the primary advantage of server SANs is their support for virtualization. They allow virtualization teams to provision the storage they need without having to go through or compete with other departments. It makes sense to manage your storage via the same interface you use to manage your virtual machines, including user profiles and APIs.

The ultimate fate of both object storage and server SANs depends on the delivery of software that's smart enough to manage the transfer and monitoring of petabyte-scale data stores. But you don't have to wait for the next generation of data-storage software to realize the cost, efficiency, and other benefits of cloud storage. New companies are emerging that are addressing these issues innovative and cost-effective ways. Do you have any good experiences with such companies? Leave your suggestions in the comments section!

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