Using Object-based Storage to Replace File-Based NAS Architectures

Object-Based Storage is an architecture that manages data as objects as opposed to traditional block- or file-based approaches, and is a viable option for storing unstructured data at petabyte scale.

 Erik Ottem is Director of Product Marketing, Data Center Systems, Western Digital.

Editor's Note: Part 1 of this two-part series explores Object-Based Storage as an alternative storage solution and its role in cost-effectively delivering data at scale.  As more OBS platforms become deployed, replacing traditional NAS file-based architectures in today’s data centers, IT managers are realizing other key benefits associated with OBS including its extreme scalability, advanced data availability and durability, and simplified data management – all of which will be covered in Part 2 of this article.

The world is generating, storing, analyzing, transforming, and leveraging more data per year than in the previous 10 years combined – and it is expected to more than double each year going forward.  At this rate, according to an industry analyst, digital data will surpass 163 zettabytes by 2025, which would require 163 billion, one terabyte (1TB) drives, to store all of it.  That’s a lot of data being generated by billions of people, using millions of applications, on billions of PCs, smartphones and devices.

Today’s data center is rapidly changing as enterprise clients now interact with it well beyond the physicality of the glass room – whether on-premises or in the cloud.  Clients connect to the cloud in ways that didn’t exist before as mobile devices have changed the way we communicate both professionally and personally.  Not only is data being generated from PCs and smartphones, but also from cars, robots, drones, surveillance systems, sensors, medical devices, wearables, etc.  At the same time, data associated with photos, video/audio streaming and social networking has grown exponentially.

When we analyze these volumes of data and extract value, our lives become more enriched and leads to better decision-making.  But all data does not have the same intrinsic value.  So, the cost-effective approach to storing it is not always high-performance primary storage, but sometimes a performance-adequate solution with extreme scalability, advanced availability and durability, and simplified management, may be the better choice.

Introducing Object-Based Storage (OBS) – an alternative storage solution that cost-effectively delivers data at scale and is replacing the traditional file-based Network-Attached Storage (NAS) architectures used widely in today’s data centers.

Technology Overview

Object-Based Storage is an architecture that manages data as objects as opposed to traditional block- or file-based approaches, and is a viable option for storing unstructured data at petabyte scale.  Unlike file-based storage that manages data in a folder hierarchy, or block-based storage that manages disk sectors collectively as blocks, OBS platforms manage data as an object.

Network-Attached Storage is file-based with data stored inside of a folder/path (hierarchical storage), and must be traversed each time that data needs to be accessed.  Storage Area Networks (SANs) are block-based in which a collection of disk sectors are logically grouped into a block with a unique address.  In either case, there is little or no information about the data stored that can help simplify manageability or support ever-increasing amounts of data (or what is referred to as data at scale).

With OBS, the totality of the data, be it a document, audio or video file, image or photo, or other unstructured data, is stored as a single object. Metadata is also associated with the object and provides descriptive information about the object and the data itself.  This eliminates the need for a hierarchical structure and simplifies access by placing everything in a flat address space (or single namespace).  The unique identifier assigned to each object makes it easier to index and retrieve data, or find a specific object such as a video or photo.  Since metadata is defined by users, when leveraged appropriately, enables data analytics or other information discovery techniques for a large volume of data at scale.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Penton.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.
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