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Is the Storage Market Ready for a Shakeup?

Article Written by Michael Tso, CEO of Cloudian

Keep your eye on the storage market in 2017.  While some traditional technologies - particularly the disk and tape sectors - are under pressure, the huge growth in data creation is driving new opportunities and innovation.

IDC predicts that we will have a massive 44 zettabytes - or 44 trillion GB - of data on our hands by 2020. Object storage in particular is expanding by as much as 30 percent, according to IDC, in markets for data protection, media and entertainment, bioinformatics, IoT, and storage as a service.

Adding to this growth is the popularity of public cloud. Here, object storage is the dominant storage type, leading to increasing demand for highly compatible hybrid on/off premises solutions. The result is strong momentum for the technology across the enterprise and service provider markets.

The basics of object storage

Objects are data, just like files. File storage has been around for considerably longer than object storage, and is something most people are familiar with. You name your files, place them in folders and can nest them under more folders in a hierarchy. Unlike files, objects are not organized in a hierarchy.

Object storage essentially bundles the data itself along with metadata tags and a unique identifier. Metadata is a way to classify and describe your data. The metadata is customizable, which means you can input more identifying information for each piece of data. Traditional file storage has metadata too, but it's typically limited to basic information such as the file name, file type, and a few other details. Objects, by contrast, can have rich metadata that may be used to describe the contents in detail. A video clip for example can have metadata that identifies who is featured in the clip and what they are doing, details that will make it much easier to find and use the video in the future.

An object's unique identifier allows you to store it anywhere and without needing a bulky folder or hierarchal structure, which makes it easier to locate and retrieve object data across regions. The flat nature of object storage enables the limitless scalability that is useful for high-capacity storage challenges or for large or expanding storage environments. By simply adding additional nodes, you can scale to petabytes and beyond. There is no limit to growth, no single point of failure and no performance bottleneck.

Public cloud meets hybrid storage

The introduction of the public cloud has had a massive impact on the storage industry - businesses can now send huge volumes of data to the cloud freeing up expensive and valuable on-premises space. But despite the popularity of public cloud storage, it's not suitable for every requirement. Barriers to adoption include compliance, regulation and security, which precludes some data from going to the cloud. Furthermore, while legacy data center applications may benefit from the scalability and cost of cloud storage, they often require a local repository for performance reasons.

Indeed, recent research conducted by ActualTech Media across 400 U.K. and U.S. organizations showed 60 percent of respondents had data that could not be migrated to the cloud. This creates a strong driving force behind the adoption of hybrid cloud storage solutions, where object storage platforms are being deployed on premises. These private clouds have the ability to automatically tier selected data to the public cloud for archival or capacity expansion purposes. By integrating the management of two cloud environments into a single interface, businesses can easily control confidential data while taking advantage of public cloud scalability, tools and applications.

The future of data protection is object

For many organizations, a primary reason for deploying object storage is to create a robust and affordable backup target. Remember, object data is all stored in a flat pool or bucket, distributed across a flexible group of drives. Small components, called parity bits, are stored in additional locations for data rebuilds in the event of a device failure. This adaptable approach means you can configure data protection as needed. One data type may be distributed across multiple devices, or "nodes," while another data type is replicated, or copied across sites. You can select the appropriate protection depending on the strategic or business value of the data, and apply that protection across drives, nodes, clusters or sites and all configurable at a granular level. 

Data protection solutions from vendors including Veritas, Commvault and Rubrik now support object storage as a target, making it a simple, scalable drop-in replacement for tape or costly disk-based backup appliances. Compared with other options, an object solution helps ensure fast backup and quick recovery, often at 70 percent less cost than other disk-based targets.

For offsite storage and disaster recovery, object storage gives the option to tier data to the public cloud or extend the storage cluster to other sites for remote replication. Either way, the cluster capacity can be easily expanded as needed, simply by adding inexpensive storage nodes.

The storage industry is rapidly evolving, and object storage has emerged to quickly establish itself as a key option to address the challenges of a data hungry world. While block and file storage isn't going away anytime soon, the limitations of arrays become more apparent when an organization's data grows from terabytes to petabytes. The ability for object storage to scale, protect data and be managed like a public cloud make it a strong core component of an enterprise IT strategy. Object is a storage trend that will certainly gather more momentum in the year ahead.

Published Thursday, February 16, 2017 8:04 AM by David Marshall
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