Cloud Scalability Spurring Interest in Object Storage

Arthur Cole
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Cloud Computing Performance Matters

Performance issues are already a major concern.

Data loads are increasing and, consequentially, so are storage requirements. Fortunately, we have the cloud, which is designed to provide the scalability we need to handle anything the digital universe throws our way, right?

Well, not quite. While it's true that cloud resources are infinitely scalable, the fact is that the vast majority of data out there (more than 80 percent, according to Forrester) is unstructured, which is too unwieldy for current file and block-based architectures to handle effectively. So merely scaling up or out into the cloud won't do a whole lot of good if all you're doing is extending current, unproductive storage architectures.

So far, the search for a more suitable means of storing unstructured data has centered around object storage. As described by NetApp's Ingo Fuchs, the difference between file/block storage and object storage is like the difference between finding your own parking space and using a valet service. The former has you searching streets and garages for just the right location and then walking back to that location to pick up your car (data), while the latter hands the keys to an attendant who jots down pertinent information needed for retrieval and then delivers the goods upon request. When building the kinds of giant repositories that are turning up on the cloud, valet parking is the only way to efficiently handle immense data volumes.

Much of the cloud-related storage activity these days is centered around object storage. Newcomer Amplidata just released the AmpliStor Optimized Object Storage (OOS) system at Storage Networking World designed to accommodate petabyte- and even exabyte-scale storage requirements. The system utilizes a scalable software module called BitDynamics to enable plug-and-play deployment of high-density storage nodes, along with proprietary BitSpread technology to practically eliminate data loss. The company claims it can cut storage capacity requirements some 50 to 70 percent, while cutting the power envelope to less than 7 watts per TB.

Despite the enthusiasm surrounding object storage, keep in mind that it is not suitable for all environments. If you need to bone up on the technology, Forrester's Andrew Reichman has a white paper that spells out both the pros and the cons, such as known performance issues and a lack of standards that prevent broad interoperability among platforms. But for key workloads like Web 2.0 applications, imaging and the like, object storage provides substantial cost benefits compared to other solutions.

For many, the simple economics of object storage will prove to be enough of a draw as data loads increase to previously unimaginable levels. It's not enough to simply provide a more elegant, responsive storage environment-it has to come in under budget as well.

As object technology evolves alongside the cloud, it seems that it fulfills both needs equally well.

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