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DevOps 2021: Understanding Cloud Object Storage in 2021

What is Cloud Object Storage?

Cloud offers an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform that enables you to store a huge amount of data in either Block storage or Object storage formats. Deciding which storage format will suit your business needs can be an important part. Both Block storage and Cloud storage works on a different approach and works well for different scenarios.

Before moving to Object storage, we should know about what a Block object is and how it is different from Cloud object storage. Block storage is the oldest form that stores the fixed-size chunks of data that can be stored on independent disk drives. These distributed chunks of data blocks can be identified by their address without any associated metadata. This type of storage works well when application and data are both stored locally. But with the introduction of cloud and open-source applications, many organizations are now preferring to store their data on Cloud which offers flexible and durable data.

Object storage however unlike block storage stores unstructured data in the cloud. It does not limit the file system with information and stores unlimited metadata along with file bits into one item which can be referred to as an object.

Each object has a 128-bit unique identifier which helps in locating the object over a distributed system or even if it is not present in the same physical location of the requesting system. Object storage adds comprehensive metadata to the file, eliminating the tiered file structure used in file storage, and places everything into a flat address space, called a storage pool.Object storage can be easily stored at multiple sites and can be accessed via application program interfaces, HTTP, and HTTPS. Some of the Cloud object storage options are- Amazon S3, Rackspace Cloud Files, Azure Blob Storage, and Google Cloud Storage.

Block vs Object Storage

There are many differences when we consider both storage types. Even there are some reasons why Object storage is preferred over Block storage in this era of cloud computing. Due to the distributed and open-source environment, we must make our data flexible and available to all accessible clients, which is why Object storage is important. Below are some differences between Object and Block storage.

  • With Block storage, the data is stored into fixed chunks without any metadata to provide content to the stored data while with Object storage, the entire file is stored as an object with unique metadata and its unique identifier. You can store as much metadata of any type which makes object storage customizable.
  • If you are using Block storage then you can access it directly by the operating system as a mounted drive volume but if you cannot do it with Object storage as it will somehow degrade the performance. There is little overhead in accessing object storage.
  • With Object storage, you can easily handle data growth while with Block storage you can handle up to some petabytes else the Block storage will face durability issues as it has hard infrastructure limitations.
  • With Object storage, you will get the advantage of resilience as multiple copies are stored over a distributed system to prevent data loss. It helps in running an application if one node is unavailable. Also, there is no need for expensive hardware to store multiple copies as the data protection is built-in for Object architecture. But with Block storage, we have a RAID facility instead of a resilience feature. This feature does not come built-in with Block storage but is added over time.

Comparison between Object and Block storageObject StorageBlock Storage

Benefits of Object Storage

Though the concept of Object storage is new and it is trending among companies due to its distributed data facility. Below are some benefits of using Object storage over Block storage.

1. Ensures scalability

Object storage ensures unlimited scalability as the system can be easily scaled out by adding new nodes to the distributed systems. This storage can easily expand data to any amount without any restriction. It can also benefit static data and is ideal for digital archives.

2. Ensures fast retrieval and recovery

With the help of unique metadata and ID, data retrieval is much easier from a distributed system. You do not need to know where your data is located. Object storage contains unrestricted metadata that enables storage administrators to define their security policies to retain, delete, and preserve the stored data. It helps in reinforcing the data and provides better disaster recovery methods.

3. Cost-effective

If you want to store a huge amount of data with the future scope to scale that data then Object storage is the better option to avail. You do not require expensive hardware to store your data but you can store it on distributed systems to cut short the hardware cost. In case, if you have a private cloud facility then the cost will be lower than expected.

4.Comes with less limitations

Unlike Block storage and file storage, Object storage comes with fewer limitations. You can access the Object storage in a different way which is not possible in traditional storage. You can use any number of attributes for metadata.

Object Storage Use Cases

The prime use cases for object storage generally include storing large amounts of data that businesses need to access only periodically.

  1. Storage of unstructured data like music, image, and video files.
  2. Good option in situations where you need data to be stored once and infrequently accessed, such as backups, database dumps, and log files.
  3. For storing large data sets. Whether you’re storing ecommerce, social media or financial data, or multimedia files such as photos and videos, Object storage can be used as your object store.
  4. Object storage is also ideal for some HPC and AI workloads, machine and deep learning training data and also for storing data from big data analytics using tools like Hadoop, Spark, Flink, Hive etc
  5. Post pandemic we see a lot of video streaming start-ups in EdTech, Media streaming and Gaming etc. Storing large volumes of data for them translating into terabytes and petabytes , object storage is again a handy storage option.

Common Cloud Storage Tools

  1. AWS S3
  2. Google Cloud Storage
  3. Azure blob storage
  4. DigitalOcean Spaces
  5. Alibaba OSS
  6. StackPath
  7. Oracle Storage
  8. LakeFS
  9. OpenIO
  10. IBM Cloud Storage
  11. Cloud Files by Rackspace

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