EMC Glossary

Object Storage

A storage architecture that manages data as objects as opposed to file storage, which uses a hierarchal directory structure. An object contains data, meta-data, and a unique global identifier. Object storage is preferred for cloud applications because of its inherent ability to scale massively, accessibility via common API’s, and ability to use a namespace, which can span multiples instances of physical hardware.

Who uses object storage and why?

Application developers program with common APIs to write all types of cloud-based (modern) applications including mobile apps. These modern applications use object storage instead of traditional file or block storage. IT Managers use object storage to cost effectively store unstructured data for the following uses: Geo-distributed global content repository, cold archive, Internet of Things (IoT) storage, and analytics. Object storage is used to efficiently store unstructured data such as IoT data, graphics files, sensor data, etc.

How does object storage work?

Object storage is different from file storage in that object storage does not have a directory tree with folders and subfolders. An object contains data, metadata well as a globally unique identifying number. With object storage there are no directories or mount points.  An index is used to store the identifying number for easy recall. Applications and end users don't need to know the location of the file; they simply provide the unique ID and the system retrieves the data. In addition, an object storage system features a single, flat global namespace, regardless of the number of nodes or geographic locations. This results in location-independence without requiring a file system to govern data placement. Multiple nodes and sites appear as one, logical storage system. Replication and geo-distribution of data is driven by policies object by object rather than dedicated replication and backup infrastructure.

What are the benefits of object storage?

A key to the cost efficiency delivered with cloud storage is to begin with an affordable storage system. The complexities and restrictions of outmoded file systems that power traditional NAS and SAN storage arrays can easily offset the potential cost savings of cloud storage by complicating storage administration, limiting scalability with artificial capacity caps and enforcing vendor lock-in with expensive, proprietary hardware. Object storage is a much better fit for cloud infrastructures. Instead of using a complex, difficult to manage and antiquated file system, object storage systems leverage a single flat address space that enables the automatic routing of data to the right storage systems, specifies the content lifecycle and keeps both active and archive data in a single tier with the appropriate protection levels. This allows object storage to provide better value by aligning the value of data and the cost of storing it without requiring oppressive management overhead to manually move data to the proper tier while providing infinite scalability to support the capacity-on-demand capability of cloud storage. 

Other Benefits of Object Storage Include

•Object storage is also designed to run at peak efficiency on commodity server hardware.

•Object storage provides easy access to storage anywhere, any time to any device via HTTP.

•Cloud storage is commonly delivered as Storage as a Service (SaaS) application via the Internet, so using HTTP as the primary protocol to access object storage pools vastly simplifies the process for cloud storage providers to integrate object storage systems into their service offerings.