The term object storage is increasingly entering the debate about how data is and should be stored. The implication is that traditional file systems are outdated and the alternatives mean disruption for customers and industry.
The curse of the file system
IT platforms rely on utility programs to maintain metadata about where files reside as well as taking care of the storing and retrieval of our information. These functions are typically executed in more than one place: the operating system (OS) as well as in the storage systems. It is the file system that takes care of things for the OS. However while file systems are OK at basic file handling, they soon come under pressure when performance and scale are involved. Which is why databases evolved as a separate software and data handling discipline. Similarly, even if the file formats are standard, performance and scale causes problems for standard file systems.
Virtualising data access
Object storage emerged as a virtualisation layer between the how data is actually stored and the users of the data. The object in question means that files are chopped up into smaller chunks. As long they can be presented back to the applications in their original form, then it does not matter what goes on deeper down. (Content Addressed Storage was the precursor to Object Storage).
There are several implementations of Object Storage: appliances, software only solutions and other products that embed Object Storage inside them. Most if not all of these solutions are proprietary, because each vendor devise their own unique scheme for handling the data. Most products are targeted at specific use cases: media, email, cloud, distributed IT etc.
The vendors gather under the Object Storage banner ie. referring back to the same umbrella term instead of inventing new ones. This is smart because it takes time to explain what Object Storage is, so prospective customers are helped by not being deliberately confused. There will undoubtedly be some people who will be turned off by the proprietary nature of the data formats. However, we recommend prospects familiarise themselves by the benefits Object Storage brings and as always assess the prices proposed by the vendors. We believe that there is plenty of benefit to be had from Object Storage based solutions and this segment will enjoy significant growth. That is growth from a low base, but the vendors will retain a targeted approach, because in certain verticals customers emulate their peers when purchasing new IT.
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