What is Object Storage? A Simple, Comprehensive Guide
10 Nov 2021
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Security, scalability, flexibility, and convenience of access: these are the four factors no business overlooks in the current decade. With increasing IT infrastructure complexity, data assets, and competition, excelling at these factors can help you gain an edge in your industry.
Next-generation object storage solutions — with the capability beyond exabytes — can sort things out in such a scenario.
Object storage architecture has numerous benefits over its predecessors, file and block storage systems. It follows an unstructured approach to save data in key-value pairs and thus has better scalability than its counterparts.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about object storage, including benefits, downsides, use cases, and FAQs.
Let’s start simple. Think of data and its formats. Your storage or application database may have photos, videos, text files, log files, sensor data, backups, binary files, excel sheets, charts, reports, and virtual machine images.
Most of these formats add unstructured data to systems, unlike conventional systems that accept text-only or fixed-format structured data. In fact, according to Datamation, unstructured data is growing at a rate of 55-65% today.
In the case of object storage, data is saved as objects by associating metadata with it. This “Key + Value” (metadata and object) format is compatible with modern data formats and retrieval needs. For example, when you search for something, metadata can help in faster information retrieval.
Because this data is saved in object format, it is accessible by local users on an operating system, APIs, and web services. This data can also be spread across several storage spaces to achieve scalability.
How does object storage work?
The data processing starts with breaking data into various units and saving it as objects in the repository.
When submitted through REST API to the storage database, an object returns a key, or identifier. The data container saves the metadata for each of these keys.
During the retrieval operation, an algorithm checks the metadata of all objects. For the found matches in the data container, keys with relevant metadata are used to access objects and give accurate output.
Object Storage Vs Other Options
Object storage may not be the best choice for every use case. So, let’s first compare object storage with other options you have. After that, we will discuss object storage advantages and disadvantages to explain when it makes the best choice.
Object Storage Vs File Storage
The file storage system, also called Network File System (NFS), is one of the oldest storage systems. In this hierarchical system with a branching tree structure, data is saved as files inside folders. The location of a file depends upon the structuring of your storage system and could be very deep in the hierarchy.
When comparing object storage vs NFS, you will realize that the file storage requires network-attached storage. NFS is the best option when you need to share data with multiple users and the exact file path is known. However, searching is a complex and time-consuming operation for such a system.
Private cloud object storage systems work similarly to file storage systems but have better accessibility. So, object storage is a better option than old-school file storage systems.
Block Storage Vs Object Storage
Block storage divides big files into several blocks, saving the address of the subsequent related block at the end of the current block. This method ensures consistent performance and low latency for long data fetching processes.
However, for initial searching to find the first block related to an operation, block storage latency is higher than object storage latency. In a comparison between object-based storage vs block-based storage, enterprises and application developers whose use cases rely on fast initial searches choose object storage.
The difference between block and object storage can be summarized in this diagram:
Volume Storage Vs Object Storage
A “volume” is a separately recognized storage space. For example, when you partition your computer’s memory during OS installation, it creates several volumes. It is impossible to create a file that requires more space on the disk than the volume itself
On the other hand, an object-based storage system stores data as objects. If an object is larger than the space left for your cloud plan, you can upgrade your plan and extend its limit. This capability makes object-based storage inherently scalable, eliminating the downside of volume storage.
Object Storage Vs File Storage Vs Block Storage
Now that we’ve covered the difference between block vs object storage and file vs object storage differences, here’s a quick side-by-side recap:
Benefits of Object Storage
The purpose of object storage technology is to work well in modern cloud and on-premise IT infrastructures. The best object storage solutions provide various advantages to users.
Significant benefits of object-based storage architecture include:
Scalability: Objects store unstructured data in one or multiple parts, so enterprises or users can scale their storage size to exabytes or above.
Flexibility: One business can use different devices and object storage platforms for better cost management and resource optimization.
Programmability: API and HTTP calls can fetch data from object stores using metadata information, IoT data, application backups, enterprise apps, and enterprise storage systems. S3-Compatible object storage services like Ridge Object Storage are best suited for programmability.
Durability: Data in cheap object storage systems can be held for longer durations securely, discarding less relevant data to provide space for new essential data.
Cost-convenience: You can optimize the cost of storing data and reduce the total cost of ownership with the right object storage service providers.
Metered Consumption: Object storage options let organizations track usage by internal and external users for various purposes, such as billing, behavior tracking, and analytics.
Ease-of-use: Once the clustering and tuning-like operations are automated, using and maintaining the object storage is simple.
Accessibility: Both on-premise and cloud implementations of object storage are possible. So, the accessibility of such an arrangement is suited for all your users, including remote engineers.
Searchability: You can efficiently improve your storage’s searchability by customizing the metadata and adding more tags.
Drawbacks of Object Storage
With object storage explained, you might wonder, “what are the drawbacks?” Objects are static, meaning that you cannot edit them after adding them to your object storage solution. Additionally, object writing can be slow on old hardware or old storage systems. Finally, object storage may not be compatible with legacy databases.
What is Cloud Object Storage?
The cloud is a storage space that can be accessed through the internet and is managed by third-party service providers. From here, you may easily deduce the Cloud Object Storage definition.
As expected, object-based cloud storage is an object storage space hosted on the cloud.
Why Use Object Storage?
Are you thinking, “why should I use object storage?”
The benefits of cloud object storage include all the benefits of object storage that we detailed above combined with the benefits of the cloud. These scalable solutions offer low-cost maintenance, better security, great flexibility, and higher manageability. When you need easy remote access, object storage applications on the cloud make the most sense.
There are a few different types of object-based cloud storage, including:
Kubernetes Object Storage
Kubernetes object storage lets you containerize your application and its essential services in one container or cluster. This container acts as one unit and can be deployed in various computing environments directly. Your application will become more portable and benefit from cross-platform abilities with Kubernetes.
Object-based managed Kubernetes clusters are efficient at fulfilling your workload scalability needs. It gives your setup an auto-healing capability, meaning that if your application goes down, Kubernetes can automatically restore it to the desired state by re-deploying the setup. This feature improves the manageability of your object storage.
Docker Object Storage
When you need high-performance storage and infrastructure for your performance-critical applications, a reliable S3-compliant object-based docker storage should be your pick.
A cloud-native object storage deployment has no on-premise object storage implementation but one or more clouds only. Whenever you want to avoid managing the underlying architecture for your storage system, go with a cloud-native solution like object storage docker or Ridge’s Container Service.
Multi-cloud Object Storage
When you have varying data storage and security needs, opt for multi-cloud object storage that has private as well as public clouds available at your disposal.
Cloud Object Storage On-Premise
It is easy to connect heterogeneous systems like on-premise and cloud infrastructure units using cloud object storage. Using the data erasure technique, you can avoid node failures and security gaps. Object storage on the cloud is the obvious solution to the low-scalability limitation of on-premises systems.
Distributed File System vs Object Storage
Distributed file systems use various hardware and software resources, deployed at different locations, to attain the highest-level performance for a network. Compared to the distributed file system (DFS), object storage is different in many ways.
The ownership cost of object storage is lower than older file-based systems like distributed file systems. Distributed file systems aim to attain low latency on frequent end-user operations through caching or optimal resource allocation, while object storage serves businesses’ high storage and quick accessibility needs. Unlike DFS, object-based storage does not need to distribute its data storage geographically.
Cloud Object Storage Use Cases: When Should You Use It?
Cloud object storage hosting is a good idea for your organization whether you go for on-prem, cloud, or a combined model. Here are a few use cases to give you an example of object storage:
A data store for video, multimedia, images, audio, and other such static files.
A Linux object storage for the low-latency and high-performance object storage needs of your modern applications.
Data lakes for media and streaming companies to improve data searchability.
Saved log files, backups, recovery data, analytics data, and training data.
If you are not happy with your Hadoop Distributed File System due to its high latency for small data, object storage could be the solution you’re looking for. The difference between HDFS and object storage is that HDFS is suitable for big data and batch processing only. However, object storage performs well for big and small data and has low-maintenance needs.
An Object Storage Private Cloud to fill the vast record-keeping needs of e-commerce, pharmaceutical, academic, and financial organizations when additional security is the primary concern.
Object storage saves data as objects so that users can retrieve these objects through HTTP and REST API calls. Each object key has a value and metadata attached to it. The benefits of object-based storage are high scalability, low total cost of ownership, flexibility, and programmability.
What is object storage in Cloud?
Cloud-based or cloud-native object storage uses managed cloud services for storing object-based data, either alone or in combination with on-premise object storage appliances. Data is stored as objects in buckets and has associated metadata, keys, and tags for improved searching.
How to backup object storage?
Your service provider manages backups for your object storage on the cloud. However, for on-premise deployments, you will have to perform manual backups. For added data safety, you may keep storage snapshots of your both or on-premise object storage.
How to use object storage?
You can use object storage by selecting your service provider and storing your unstructured data with it. All kinds of static files, e.g., images, videos, VM images, backup files, and songs that need remote access, security, and collaboration, can be added to your object storage.
Kenny Kleinerman, Head of Content | Ridge
As the Head of Content at Ridge, Kenny is in charge of navigating the tough subjects and bringing the Cloud down to Earth.