Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

How to Fix Your Data Growth Problems with Object Storage

Cloud object storage has a lot to offer the enterprise IT leader with exabyte-level scalability demands and budgetary constraints.

4 Min Read
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Clayton Weise is director of cloud services for Key Information Systems.

Walk into almost any data center today – in any industry and in any region – and you’ll likely hear snippets of the same conversation happening everywhere. Enterprises are feeling the blowback of data explosion. In a landscape where organizations see data stores multiplying annually by terabytes and petabytes, traditional block and file storage options can’t keep up. This scalability crisis is leading many companies to object storage.

We live in the pack rat age of data growth – no one deletes data. And there is a whole lot more data weighing down traditional storage options. With more regulations on the books demanding data retention, more Internet of Things (IoT) devices creating and capturing data, and more appetite for information and services, capacity challenges have become acute.

Consider a few numbers that tell the story:

  1. 13 zetabytes: The estimated amount of data created, captured or replicated globally in 2016

  2. 13 million petabytes: A slightly more fathomable way to grasp that level of annual growth

  3. 415 terabytes: The amount of new data per second on average reflected in the above numbers

  4. 3,000 of today’s hard disk drives: What you would need every minute to hold an overall 13 zetabytes of annual data growth

  5. 44 zetabytes: The data high-water mark IDC expects we’ll hit by 2020

File and block storage (or NAS and SAN) can’t scale to the heights these numbers are propelling enterprises. File and block storage approaches made sense when data growth was slower. Today, though, enterprises are global, and distributed teams need rapid access to large files. This is a pain point object storage eases.

File storage isn't fast; its hierarchy tree slows down when it has to manage billions of files. And both file and block storage present scalability issues. By contrast, object storage is relatively flat, and it’s easy for IT teams to quickly access individually tagged files. And it’s an option with nearly unlimited capacity; it’s hard to imagine the enterprise that could ever exceed object storage’s scalability limits.

Why the Time is Right for Object Storage

From law enforcement agencies storing body cam video files to health organizations housing electronic medical records data to entertainment companies looking for better ways to store progressively more complex video files, enterprises across industries are adopting object storage. They do so because they need instant access to data (either to satisfy compliance regulations or customer demands), they want pay-as-you-go predictable cost structures and they must cut their management expenses. Object storage meets these needs, while also adding a layer of security thanks to its ability to track change history and roll back to previous versions of the data if, for example, ransomware infects the system.

The rising popularity of object storage has a lot to do with other technological advances, as well. There are now widely available tools on the market for accessing data and tuning performance in object storage environments. Further, some key features we see in systems like IBM Cloud Object Storage make it an enticing choice, especially for unstructured and growing data.

The first of these features is erasure coding. It used to be that object storage required users to write the information, get a unique code or identifier for each object and then replicate it two or three times to ensure reliability. It was an inefficient system that chewed up two or three times as much storage, depending on the number of copies you made. Worse, if you misplaced your code, your data was lost. Today, IBM addresses the replication problem with erasure coding, which is somewhat like RAID parity but more flexible. Enterprises define the erasure code algorithms based on the redundancy their data requires and their efficiency objectives. If enterprises make a small change – even 15 percent – in favor of efficiency, they can see a savings of hundreds of terabytes.

The second advancement that makes object storage make sense for enterprises is in the realm of security. Out of the box, an offering like IBM Cloud Object Storage supports encryption for data on its object storage platform. Enterprises also get Active Directory or LDAP authentication, as well as object-level access lists (ACLs) with S3 API compatibility. The result is easy integration into enterprise environments and granular access control.

Taking the First Steps Toward Object Storage

Cloud object storage has a lot to offer the enterprise IT leader with exabyte-level scalability demands and budgetary constraints. In terms of reliability, availability and total cost of ownership, object storage is compelling. We counsel clients to begin their object storage projects with defined scopes to ensure success from the start. Choose projects that aren’t reliant on older systems, for example, or start by creating an alternative place for backups, which won’t affect production environments while the team gets up to speed. There’s no need to go all in right from the start, but with data growth continuing at an accelerating pace, now is the time to start considering a transition to object storage.

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

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