The Object Storage story doesn’t end with Archive

San Francisco – November 8th, 2012

In the last few weeks, there has been multiple panels about Object Storage in different trade shows around the world, which is great. However, I disagree quite strongly on the content delivered by the panelists, in that they were limiting Object Storage to a very specific use case. I know for a fact that Object Storage is much more than merely a technology for Active Archive.

My friend Tom Leyden, of Amplidata, with whom I’ve had many discussions about this, wrote a post summing up all these panels, and there are some interesting points that were raised by the crowd with regards to Object Storage beyond the points made by the panel. It is worth a read.

It’s great to see that those panels were in general well-attended. It shows Object storage is getting some attention. It still has some stigma and a bad rep because of the first generation of object storage, created in the late 90s.

Since then, the concept has been rethought and a new generation of Object Stores have come up and solved the issues the first generation was not able to cope with, mainly offering true massive scale, better APIs, higher performance and reliability, and also and maybe most importantly, cost-efficiency. This was very well explained in the panel. However, Object Storage for Large-Scale Active Archive storage to replace tape and “monetize one’s archive” was the main use case put forward during the panel. There are two things here that I strongly disagree with.

First, I don’t think Tape is dead as it was sort of implied sometimes during the panels (and not only by the panelists). Yes, it has strong limitations, but there is to this day no other technology that can manage low-consumption for hundreds of PBs of data. The very low-latency and inconvenience of Tape is the price to pay to be able to store this amount of data fairly reliably and cost-effectively. Sure, there are some technologies like MAID, and others that are trying to fix this, but the low-consumption factor is going to be hard to challenge, even with these techs. After all, one of the most innovative companies in the world (AWS) has decided to use Tape for their Glacier offering (very low-latency storage for a very very low price / GB).

Second, Object Storage is not limited to Archive. It is obviously one of the most common usage as it’s a very cost-effective way to store huge amounts of data, and still have them available quite fast. But it’s also a legacy of the older generation. At Scality, our vision from the get-go was that distributed storage should be able to deliver high-performance primary storage for applications. And to make things clear, when I say high-performance, i mean low latency, high throughput. And we can also manage high IOPS.

What Object Storage cannot really manage very well today is high performance on Random I/O, which is what’s needed for VM Storage, Database storage etc. For more sequential I/O patterns, it can be done with an Object Store like Scality. Moreover, by being hardware-agnostic, Scality can manage High-performance tiers, a second capacity-based tier and even could handle Tape as a third long-term capacity tier. That’s what we think Object Storage should be all about: making storage easy for the applications.

The Valet analogy is great, but I think the Valet should be able to follow some instructions like “Park my car close, i’m gonna need it soon”, “you can park it far away, i’m gone for 3 days” etc.

All in all, I think this shows that we are still struggling to get away from the stigma associated with Object Storage. The Object Storage Industry is seeing a lot of innovations these days, and obviously not only by Scality. And this is being recognized too slowly by the industry, the Analysts and the Press. That’s why we’re strongly behind the Next Generation Object Storage Summit, which will happen at the end of November in Miami, organized by Steve Duplessie (who was by the way in one of the panels) and his ExecEvent. It is a similar event than the one he created for Tape (The Tape Summit), even though the motivation behind it is fairly different.

The summit is really about gathering the main actors of the new generation of Object Storage industry to come up, together, with a strong message about our the advantages of our Innovations in the field. The goal is to make sure that Object Storage is not being overlooked anymore as an old technology with many flaws and caveats to really be considered for massive scale storage by technologists whether they work in Enterprise IT departments, Telcos, or Service Providers.

I’d strongly urge you to come and talk to us at the summit, at the many shows we spend time at to evangelize our industry or directly on our website. There’s so much more about Object Storage. We’re dying to let you know.

-Marc

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