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The Structure in Next Generation Object Storage

The fun moment of the conference was when Chris Mellor, absent for good reasons, challenged us all through a video message

It’s about time to revive this blog: it has been almost 6 months since I joined DDN and it has been a roller coaster ride (I love roller coasters). I’ve learned a lot about how to build a better object storage platform and I hope I’ve helped a lot of people here how to better explain the benefits, opportunities and use cases of object storage to customers. Talking about customers, it’s been exciting to visit our major WOS accounts and see object storage in action at massive scale.

That said, last week (actually, almost 2 weeks back now) it was demonstrated again that we’re only halfway there. It was the time of the year for GigaOm Structure and the guys from the Next Generation Object Storage Summit (in)conveniently scheduled their object storage get-together the same week (avoid the overlap guys). At NGOSS, a surprisingly large amount of the conference was spent on the “what is object storage” debate. At Structure, my workshop about how the right type of object storage can resolve the scalability, efficiency and performance challenges of large scale web applications was very well attended, even though a lot of it was a basic object storage 101.

I had avoided the NGOSS event previously as I didn’t see the point of just presenting to my competitors (half joking), but this event turned out to be very enlightening. It was good to learn more about Intel’s initiatives (adding Erasure Coding to Swift and their CosBench “object storage benchmarking” project) and there were a few very interesting presentations and panels. As a matter of fact I think a next event should have us spend some time on discussing performance for object storage in general. Performance has been the missing piece in many object storage conversations but yet it is oh so important. In times of whistleblowers, the Yottastor use case got a great deal of attention and the discussion around government use of object storage was very exciting. Based on the number of questions Reuven Cohen of Forbes had for Bob Carlson at Yottastor, we should hope for some coverage on the solution in his blog some time soon. If not, I’ll dedicate a post to the Yottastor solution on this blog so stay tuned.

The fun moment of the conference was when Chris Mellor, absent for good reasons, challenged us all through a video message: “show me where the file system fails and where object storage saves the day”. Chris, I would suggest you consider the question differently and not suggest that file systems will ultimately die: just like tape will never die, the file system will continue to play a strong role in an integrated solution stack where object storage becomes one element of a larger data center framework. There will always be use cases for file storage and some file systems will scale massively (and probably never break… DDN certainly has a number of high scale use cases to talk to). But it’s about avoiding the file system complexity and overhead. It’s about storing large volumes of mostly immutable data more efficiently etc. etc. etc. We invite you to talk with University College London (a train ride away…) and learn what they’re using object storage for, their ambitions to go to and beyond 100PB, the value of a scalable, efficient and portable platform….

Back to the essence: believe it or not, but I thought the “what makes a storage platform an object storage platform” discussion still the most interesting one. Is a REST API enough (no)? Does it need to be pure object, without POSIX on the disk level (to be efficient and scale… of course). Isn’t it defined by the benefits the platform provides (yes, that as well). Industry analyst Ben Woo offered to take the lead in composing a check list to help buyers decide whether a proposed object storage solution will do the job for them, and Deni Connor pointed out a lot of the debate is also covered in their recent object storage survey report.

Coincidentally (or not), most of what’s been discussed at the NGOSS are topics that my readers have been reading about for some time. As these conferences confirm there is still a lot of education to do, let me dedicate the next few posts to the essence of object storage. By the time the summer is over (if it ever gets started here in Belgium), it will all be crystal clear (kind of).

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More Stories By Tom Leyden

Tom Leyden is VP Product Marketing at Scality. Scality was founded in 2009 by a team of entrepreneurs and technologists. The idea wasn’t storage, per se. When the Scality team talked to the initial base of potential customers, the customers wanted a system that could “route” data to and from individual users in the most scalable, efficient way possible. And so began a non-traditional approach to building a storage system that no one had imagined before. No one thought an object store could have enough performance for all the files and attachments of millions of users. No one thought a system could remain up and running through software upgrades, hardware failures, capacity expansions, and even multiple hardware generations coexisting. And no one believed you could do all this and scale to petabytes of content and billions of objects in pure software.

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