Guest Column | May 24, 2018

4 Reasons Object Storage Can Help Slow Runaway Data Growth

By Clayton Weise, Key Information Systems

Big Data

Don’t worry — this won’t be the millionth article you see this week about the problems the overwhelming crush of data created by organizations everywhere is causing. It’s not an article detailing the many security risks companies face while trying to keep their data safe, secure, and accessible. This is an article about a potential solution to those problems: object storage.

Basically, traditional storage manages data as a hierarchy: folders, files, types, and so on. Then there’s block storage that treats data as blocks in tracks and sectors. Object storage is different. It manages data as objects which negates the need for metadata to locate an object in an exabyte-scale storage pool giving it some distinct advantages of scale and economy — especially when combined with the cloud.

IDC projects digital data volume will grow at a 42 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through at least 2020. As we start to measure data in zettabytes — that’s on the order of one sextillion bytes, or a million petabytes — being able to scale seamlessly is perhaps the most important feature a data storage solution can provide. Object storage’s scalability is at the heart of what makes it a great solution for these huge amounts of data, but it’s not the only thing. Here are four aspects of object storage that make it a great option for MSPs and integrators to help clients tame those data loads.

It’s Secure

About the only thing growing as quickly as data volumes is security concerns. As ransomware and other cybercrime continue to evolve, object storage provides features that can put you and your clients (as well as their C-suite) at ease.

Many object storage platforms offer data encryption out of the box. You can also get functionality such as lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) authentication and object-level access lists (ACLs) to make security more granular. Since most object protocols leverage a RESTful set of API calls, tracking access to data on a per-transaction basis is also possible.

Object storage has the ability to track the history of changes (version history) made to the data, including the ability to mark objects as immutable. This can build another layer of security against fire drills like ransomware and make restoration easy. In addition, object provides some degree of an “air gap” since the storage is generally not attached directly to a server, but called on only when needed. Put together, this makes object storage a great option for fleets of data that needs to be kept securely.

It’s Getting Cheaper

Of course, all the benefits don’t matter as much if a technology isn’t affordable. This is where object storage continues to become more appealing. In addition to backup-as-a-service or disaster recovery-as-a-service offerings, anything that’s cost effective can make inroads.

As it has evolved over the years, object storage has become more and more cost effective by being able to leverage commodity hardware and clever software, instead of specialized and expensive storage systems. With more providers coming to market, prices are coming down. This is spurring new opportunities for MSPs, integrators, and other partners as organizations discuss getting data off tape, which is still used extensively in large and mid-sized companies. As prices of object storage continue to fall, though, it is becoming a great option for organizations of all sizes.

It’s Limitlessly Expandable

With the amount of data being created, one trend nobody is hearing about is companies deleting more data. That’s because, largely, they’re not. Think about your own personal life. How often do you remove pictures from your phone? If you’re like most people, the answer is, “Not very often.” We delete photos when our phone gets full, and then delete only enough so that we can add more.

Your clients are the same way. They hate to delete data, and they often face retention regulations that require them to keep data for extended periods, or unclear direction on what they should keep so they tend to keep everything just to be safe. That means an easily expandable archive option is high on every list, which is exactly where object storage excels, providing almost unlimited scaling capacity. Traditional options like block and file storage — or NAS and SAN — simply can’t scale as easily as the flat structure of object storage can.

It’s Accessible From Many Locations

The positives of object storage are pretty clear. At its most basic level, it provides a central location to store data long-term, in an increasingly cost effective way, and can be accessed from anywhere.

It’s this access that requires a bit more investigation, however. Object storage isn’t designed as an instant-access model, so it’s not a great fit for every data need. For example, you’d never advise clients use it for real-time IoT data like that required by self-driving cars or in-memory databases — data that needs to be constantly analyzed and quickly put to use to make complex decisions.

One of its best use cases is as a data repository that is accessed occasionally for data that’s important to keep, and keep securely, but that maybe isn’t needed every day. Some example use cases in this vein include law enforcement, for things like body camera footage, and healthcare, for images and patient records that need to be absolutely secure, and are used as a sort of historical record.

In fact, how often and what you’re accessing are important metrics to keep in mind when considering object storage. Cloud providers often calculate charges based on what data clients access and how often. This means object storage is a great option for that important, but infrequently used data all organizations build up at a growing rate. If the “80/20 rule” is even remotely true when it comes to your storage, object offers a simple, scalable and secure place for unstructured data.

The amount of data organizations generate isn’t slowing down or stopping anytime soon. Finding new, creative, effective ways to store that data is a critical part of every IT department’s directives. As object storage becomes cheaper and more secure, it can relieve IT of a lot of its data stress, because we all know the data itself isn’t going away.

About The Author

Clayton Weise is the director of cloud services for Key Information Systems, where he is responsible for designing, architecting and implementing cloud solutions; managing production workloads; and employing cloud resources in disaster recovery, clustering and hybrid (cloud and on-premises) infrastructure solutions.