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What is object storage?

object storage

Object storage is a data storage architecture in which data is stored and managed as self-contained units called objects. Each object contains a key, data, and possibly metadata. Simple, API-compliant, and highly scalable object storage is the preferred format for public cloud storage services.

Object storage vs. file storage vs. block storage

In the world of data storage, there are three ways to store data: as files, blocks, or objects. Let’s see what the main differences are that distinguish these three formats:

Object storage is a storage format in which data is stored in discrete units called objects. Each unit has a unique identifier or key that allows it to be found wherever it is stored in a distributed system.

Objects work like modular units, and each unit behaves like a self-contained repository with metadata about details like permissions, privacy policies, security, contingencies, and more. It’s a bit like if, for a photo, we had metadata describing the camera settings as well as the time and place where the photo was taken.

Object storage supports HTTP and REST, the programming interface (API) architecture used by most websites and software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps.

Block storage breaks data into separate blocks of a fixed size and assigns a unique identifier to each block. Block storage allows the underlying storage system to retrieve those blocks wherever they are stored. It decouples data from its storage environment, allowing the storage network to store data in the most convenient location, regardless of the underlying operating system. So even if your storage system is a hybrid system that combines cloud service providers, Linux servers, and Windows servers, your SAN can quickly reassemble and recover your data when you need it.

File storage is the most common storage format; data is stored in files that you can use in folders within a hierarchical file directory. This is the storage format used by DAS and NAS systems. Anytime you access files on a hard drive, your local computer, or a shared drive hosted on a corporate server, you’re using file storage. The file path to a specific piece of data can be long and inefficient, but on the other hand, the user can access it easily.

Key Benefits of Object Storage

  • Scalability: A simple architecture, not weighed down by folder hierarchies or block tables, provides near-infinite scalability.
  • Data on demand: With object storage, it is easier to pay only for the storage capacity actually used. With infinite scalability, your data storage grows with your organization.
  • Metadata-driven data analytics: Metadata gives you unprecedented control over the data in your system.
  • API support: You can access and manage data in object storage systems using REST commands.
  • Better data integrity: With erasure coding, object storage systems can protect data integrity by reconstructing chunks of your data and performing integrity checks to prevent corruption.

Object storage use cases

Here are some scenarios where object storage is particularly effective:

  • Developing SaaS apps and websites: RESTful APIs and data objects make life easier for developers building SaaS apps and websites.
  • Management of unstructured data: with a simple data structure and no hierarchy, nothing is easier than to store endless unstructured data (images, audio files, and videos).
  • A plus for the Internet of Things (IoT): Metadata can be particularly useful for managing data across a fleet of IoT devices.

Why are companies opting for object storage?

It is estimated that 80% of all data generated is unstructured, and this percentage may still be underestimated. By 2025, IDC estimates that we will have ten times more data than today.

Businesses of all sizes have to deal with huge amounts of ever-growing data, and because growth (especially that of unstructured data) can be unpredictable, the storage solution they choose must be scalable. scale quickly, easily, and on demand. With object storage, companies are not only better equipped to store their data, but they are also better able to manage it, query it, and therefore leverage it for better insights.

Also, compared to previous file and block storage systems, object storage is not limited by the hierarchical organization. Rather, the data is organized in a horizontal plane, providing clearer and more readily available access than other storage architectures can provide. In addition, this horizontal environment is much more customizable by number, attribute, and much more.

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