Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving

Bob Ganley, Senior Solutions Consultant | 4/9/2012 | 8 comments

Bob Ganley
When it comes to long-term archiving of digital information, there are several media choices, including tape, optical media, NAS, SAN, and object storage.

Tape: Old standby
Tape is a traditional solution for backup and archiving needs and has been in use for many years. For long-term storage, it can seem at first blush to be a cost-effective solution when compared with disk-based storage.

However, once you look at the logistics surrounding growing tape libraries and the long-term costs of those environments, the advantage isn't so clear. In terms of reliability, IT managers say that a disturbingly high percentage of tape restores fail. Of course, the disadvantages of sequential access to information on tape means that recovery times can be long and rapid direct access to specific information is impossible.

Optical: Failure rate debate
Optical media has the portability of tape, but it doesn't have the same capacity. One clear advantage of optical is direct access for quicker restores, but because of the nature of removable media, it doesn't provide online access.

The management and handling challenges of growing optical backup libraries are not that different from tape, and with comparatively higher media cost, TCO of optical systems is similar. Failure rates for optical media have been the subject of a lot of debate and study. Higher capacity Blu-ray media may be more susceptible to environmental stress.

NAS and SAN: Access and protection
When it comes to performance for information access, network attached storage solutions NAS and SAN are great. Archived files can be quickly searched, and specific information can be restored without having to wait for a tape to spin.

Importantly, NAS and SAN solutions bring data protection to the table like RAID protection to prevent physical media issues from causing data loss. The reality is that storage solutions are designed for primary storage and can be expensive.

Automated tiering solutions can definitely lower the $/MB. Traditional NAS system namespaces are limited, preventing growth past preset limits. Archiving solutions for some applications, such as banking and healthcare, need to prove the integrity of their archives and require data immutability assurance that may not be available in SAN and NAS systems.

Object storage: Think efficient
For digital archiving, object storage systems are a great solution. They don't have the transactional performance of SAN or NAS, but they have the online data accessibility of primary storage systems.

They are designed to be easy to manage and provide data protection not afforded in tape solutions. By their nature, object stores don't have the namespace limitations of NAS storage, and so can scale to very large capacities.

For some applications, immutability must be assured and write-once/read-many (WORM) capabilities are a feature of many object storage systems. Storage of rich metadata on stored objects enables the application of management policies to govern the features of the storage, which is great for archival applications. For example, object storage systems can use metadata to automatically administer per-object data management policies, like number of replicas or destruction date. Redundant Array of Independent Nodes (RAIN) is the name of the technique of replicating data to other nodes within the object storage system to enhance reliability.

The right implementation of object storage offers a space and energy-efficient dense storage solution. A scale-out architecture using commodity hardware allows for a cost-effective solution that can start small can grow over time as needed.

The intelligence built into the software running the object storage system allows for a less-complex-to-manage system. This approach provides a measureable boost in enterprise efficiency and can be truly seen as the next phase in archiving solutions.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Bob Ganley   Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving   4/24/2012 3:30:10 PM
Re: Attaining Storage Nirvana
So true @LuFu and what would we do for a living otherwise :-)

I definitely see a couple of trends converging here. 1) Increasing data growth leading to increasing urgency of the need to control primary storage capacity, along with realization that storage tiering (including an archive tier) can reduce storage costs. 2) desire to have archive data near-line - I mean by that retrievable quickly as in hundreds of milliseconds. 3) The rising importance of storing meta-data with an archived object as a way to enable the automation of policy implementation. 4) The increasing adoption of object storage giving legitimacy to the segment.

Thanks for the comment!

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LuFu   Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving   4/24/2012 1:34:18 PM
Attaining Storage Nirvana
@Bob - Good layout of the storage landscape for archiving. As depicted, there isn't a single be-all, end-all solution for archiving data at the enterprise level. Current solutions with tape, optical, NAS/SAN, and Object Storage each have their own niche and purpose. And while it may be true that Object Storage will be the mode of the future I've been around long enough to hear the same discussions regarding tape, optical, and NAS/SAN...and they are still hanging around in the present. No doubt we will still be practicing storage meditation for years to come.
Bob Ganley   Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving   4/23/2012 7:17:00 AM
RE: Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving
Thanks for the comment @singlemud. I like your handle, any chance you ride a single speed mtb? :-)
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singlemud   Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving   4/20/2012 4:51:12 PM
RE: Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving
Very good post, I will keep my eye open and subscribe to object storage.
mastachand   Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving   4/18/2012 10:52:00 AM
Re: More than just for Archive
Hey Bob,

Too bad we missed each other at SNW, but i'm glad you were able to spend some time with Philippe ;)

I know 400 words is very limiting when talking about such an innovation-filled arena, which is why the comments are great ;) No words limitations there and it creates a discussion, which is great.

Let us know if we can help in anyway for your follow-up posts about object storage and storage efficiency. We're always happy to discuss this (rather) objectively :-D



Bob Ganley   Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving   4/18/2012 7:28:46 AM
Re: More than just for Archive
Thanks for the post @mastachand . I'm excited that you are contributing to the discussion and appreciate the additional detail.  I'm going to write more about object storage and will include some of your points in future posts.

FYI, I tried to find you at SNW and ended up meeting Philippe and having a great conversation. One thing I'm excited about is erasure encoding. It is a great topic for a future post focused on storage efficiency. Fact of the matter is that it is hard to do justice to ANY subject in 400 words, so I usually look at a specific angle for any given post.
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mastachand   Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving   4/17/2012 6:35:02 PM
More than just for Archive
Hey Bob,

[Disclaimer: i work for Scality]

Thanks for your post. Great sum up on why there's a need for object storage for large (and ever-growing) unstructured data stores. But even though unstructured data is indeed the fastest growing type of data out there, not all of that is archive. It also includes Emails, or data sets/objects (mostly media) for web 2.0 applications. Medical imagery, EMR & EHR storage are, again, not archive/backup use cases.

Also, I think object storage, when designed correctly, can help solve the management nightmare of legacy storage solutions when one reaches a PB. At that scale, SANs and NAS become overly complex and expensive for many organizations. Bringing in a software stack that is not tied to any specific hardware but incorporates all the intelligence needed to take advantage of any type of hardware (leveraging fast storage HW for hot, heavily accessed files, and slower storage for backup, archival and otherwise long-term storage) in a totally transparent fashion from the application storing data is something object storage can offer. a truly hardware-agnostic solution also gets rid of migrations every 3/5 years for hardware replacement.

Basicaly, it makes managing 1 PB, 10 PB and more not only simpler but actually achievable. It is not the case with legacy storage systems, whether you think in financially sustainable or purely operational terms. Moving 10PB to another system after 3 years is not a solution.

Some Object Storage vendors really focus on the archive/long-term storage market where performance is not key. At Scality, we are focusing on bringing the economies of scale of the public cloud giants (amazon, rackspace, google) to PB-scale storage systems for Telcos, Service Providers and Enterprises. Scalable performance (IOPS, throughput and latency), durability and cost-efficiency for large email platforms, web 2.0 applications and of course for archival, public cloud storage...

Object storage is meant for more than only archive and backups. We're only in its infancy stage in a transforming industry (which is a good place to be as a startup :)).

Thanks again for your article.

-Marc Villemade


Technocrat   Why Object Stores Are the Future of Archiving   4/14/2012 8:02:14 PM
Optical Storage: The Next Frontier of Storage

Bob Thank you for speaking on the benefits of Optical Storage, didn't know much about it until I read your piece. I am just a little confused as to where the  optical image is written to ?  I also was not aware that there were namespace limitations in the current NAS configurations -  Very interesting stuff Thanks Bob !

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