Has Object Storage Really Just Beaten SAN/NAS?
I recently read an amazing report by IHS Markit research, that “Object Storage [is the] Top Priority for On-Premises IT Investment”. That’s object storage ABOVE SAN and NAS! Another key finding of the report was that “looking at how much storage respondents have both on and off premises as a percentage of total storage, it is currently split at 35% for object, 38% for file and 27% for block.”
It has happened – Object Storage is the mainstream way to keep your data – on-prem and off-prem.
I can promise you that for Object Matrix the past 16 years of peddling object storage hasn’t always been like that! Countless conversations about “what is an object”; numerous slap-downs by “leading analysts” claiming “object storage isn’t even a thing”; and even storage execs from the once leading IT firms telling me “the future is the filesystem”… it’s been a tough ride. Given that the leading cloud object storage vendor started life as a bookseller, it’s clear that the big blue chip IT hierarchy got caught cold along with much of the rest of the world.
Object storage won the day anyway… but how? And what is the future?
Data Services Won the War
Let’s face it, the IT world has come a long way in the 16 years since Object Matrix started. And even I have to admit that people don’t really care about objects. But what they do care about are the business benefits that object storage brings. Scaling without worrying about the underlying disk sizes, searching without maintaining databases, reliability without manually copying data around, security without implementing firewalls… I could go on. You get the point. Data services… Benefits… without the need to manage them. Customers fell in love with systems that just work and fell out of love with managing IT infrastructure if they were ever in love at all.
And though there are still people who will insist on buying a legacy file system or an LTO system to keep a media library – the war is won.
The Five Reasons Why Object Storage is Better
… better than LTO or a File System that is. And, these are my top five reasons why:
Scaling … that’s future proof
You might be able to add a tape to an LTO set-up or a new JBOD to a SAN, but can you do that in five-year’s time or will that require a tech swap out? With good object storage you can scale old with new. It’s a far cry from SAN’s that only scale with like-for-like hardware or LTO5…6…7…. Is it even readable anymore?
Transportability you never knew you needed
An object transfers with its metadata from location to location. Simple. Whereas a file based solution may well have to have its metadata in a database or in a format that is not very user friendly and possibly a little bit “niche”, difficult to keep in sync as data moves from location to location. Data migration is a fact of life and will always be a pain point. Lose a DB and that can pretty much make the files unfindable.
But nowadays, object storage is more than just an enabler for reliable “replication”. Modern hybrid workflows in an API connected world can make use of the metadata to enable workflows that go from on-prem to cloud to another on-prem and back again. Object storage, with its metadata and APIs enables it all.
Fast and distributed asset access: Can I hear “AI”?
Re-using assets should be the main reason of keeping them in the first place, yet it doesn’t always feel that way. At least historically in media libraries, that “re-use” was often more of a “WORN” experience… write-once, read… never! However, now, sports teams are reselling libraries of obscure matches, news-rooms are reselling news clips and productions are pulling shots from their libraries instead of needing to re-shoot. And AI comes into this, because now we need quick and distributed ways to re-read and re-analyse media so that it can be found and re-used. Distributed read access is very important because libraries can be extremely large and paralysed access from multiple clients allows analysis to become practical. And of course, object storage provides parallel access in spades.
Metadata that’s searchable … and extensible
Good object storage lets you search the metadata that is kept with the objects – this is hugely advantageous over keeping the metadata in a database. Databases get out-of-date, out-of-sync, require management and aren’t highly transportable at a file-by-file level. Keeping metadata in a file is ok.. but if you want to change that metadata then you need to rewrite the file. This is doable, but not really very practical (e.g., imagine keeping a read counter or an audit in the file). Much better to have a system that makes all of this easy, because to quote an old adage: if you can’t find it, you don’t have it.
Digital Content Governance: that’s lifecycle management to some
Digital Content Governance, or DCG, means keeping content with the right level of redundancy, with audits, and security nailed. DCG is concerned with fine grained user access rights, the immutability of the content (e.g., for a period of time) and ensuring the content stays bitwise authentic. All of these services can be built into good object storage solutions but are unlikely to exist in LTO or SAN/NAS solutions.
The OM View: Object Storage Will Become Invisible
Sixteen years ago Object Matrix battled a wall of disbelievers to argue that object storage is the future but now I’m not so sure it is the future anymore… For object storage, the future has arrived. The aforementioned article confirms that. But the future of storage… sure it will be based on object storage but I believe we’ll be defining storage by the benefits it provides us day-to-day, not by what the underlying building brick of the storage is. Just as we rarely define storage as “SAS” storage or “SATA” storage today – only geeks care. Object storage will exist everywhere, but as a omni-present technology we will barely even notice it. Future storage will (and should) be defined by what it can do, not what it is. And that has to be a good thing.
About Object Matrix
Object Matrix is the award winning software company that pioneered object storage and the modernisation of media archives. Our on-prem and hybrid cloud storage solutions bring operational and financial benefits to our customers by securely managing content at every stage of its lifecycle; from ingest and nearline to archive and distribution. Deployed where you need it, our technology is non-proprietary, integrates into existing workflows, enabling you to work locally and share globally.
Our flexible approach, coupled with our focus on the media industry, means that our customers can trust us to deliver the solution they need. Our domain expertise, solutions and world class support are tailored to meet the growing demands faced when creating, archiving and sharing media content. Customers include: BBC, Orange, France Televisions, BT, HBO, TV Globo, MSG-N and NBC Universal.