How to let your infrastructure evolve with Object Storage

Enterprise storage has changed beyond belief in the last decade. We’ve gone from tape and disk to cloud and hybrid in what seems like a blink of an eye. Data storage has become a global issue and traditional storage methods can be cumbersome and cause problems of scale.

The problem isn’t just the volumes of data we are now storing; it is also the type of data that’s changed as we move form a structured to an unstructured data world. The data sets that are growing the most are in the “unstructured” category, namely documents, images, and machine data that is otherwise not organised in a “structured” database.

Like server virtualisation in the Noughties, the second decade of the 21st century, the Teens, has seen enterprises turning to virtualisation technologies to consolidate the sprawl of data sets that must be managed and protected. New breeds of solutions, such as object storage software on standard server hardware, present IT organisations with unique opportunities to build a better infrastructure.

Below are five tips to help IT teams allow their storage infrastructure to grow up:

  1. Don’t jump in, dip a toe first

Adopting object storage solutions like OpenStack does not need to be “all or nothing.” For example, presenters at the OpenStack Summit like Ancestry.com, Pac-12 Networks, and Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center have all presented how their journey with OpenStack started with a scope targeting storage, specifically object storage.

In this case, any applications that support the AWS S3 API or the OpenStack Swift API can use object storage regardless of where they operate. A journey that moves those applications to a broader environment with a broader scope is easier to continue when the right storage infrastructure is already in place.

  1. Reap cloud benefits from behind a corporate firewall

Gartner calls it Mode 2, IDC calls it 3rd Platform, though most in IT know the “new architecture” as Public Cloud. While some object storage vendors target classic workloads and were conceived in the years prior to Amazon, there are others that support today’s workloads as well and were conceived with the properties of public cloud storage.

Cloud is about immediate ease of consumption, pay-as-you-grow consumption, and an order of magnitude greater scale. The right object storage vendor can provide IT organisations with these same cloud benefits, but behind their firewall.

  1. Do more with less

Continuing to use their traditional storage technologies is just not sustainable. Enterprises need to do much more with less. sThey are competing with SaaS and public clouds for workloads, and they need to employ the same strategies that the big providers use to deliver services their internal customers are demanding. Meeting new cost targets is often the first challenge enterprises look to solve, and unique features from object storage vendors, such as SwifStack’s pay-as-you-grow model, help IT teams tackle this challenge directly.

  1. Make storage scaleable and build in multi-site

Web, Mobile and SaaS applications were the first to leverage object storage for workloads never before conceived in Enterprise Data Centers. Classic NAS technologies have filesystem limits both in number of files and size of files. As such, companies in Media and Entertainment and Life Sciences needed cloud-grade storage technology to support their order of magnitude larger data sets, and were the next to leverage object storage.

A better archive is the latest use case enterprises are starting with, as object storage can give organisations the ability to affordably access any archived data real-time, as well as take advantage of built-in offsite replication.

  1. Don’t overpay

Modern infrastructures need to use modern storage. Compared to classic storage, object storage can give users the benefit of freedom to use the same standard server hardware they procure to build a private storage cloud. Nearly eighty per cent of a storage cluster is drives, and object storage done the right way architecturally lowers cost by avoiding the ‘disk tax’ of classic storage systems. With the functionality and value moving from hardware controllers to software, it no longer makes business sense to pay 3-5X as much for the drives inside an enclosure.

Among the choices in object storage, those that grow fastest are likely to be those that improve utilisation and lower cost, as data growth is much higher than budget growth. Solving these challenges will allow Enterprises to do more with the same, and to match cost with consumption to pay as they grow. The largest cloud entities have decoupled software and hardware to enable their massive scale and cost efficiencies, and enterprises can use a similar strategy by selecting solutions in 2016 that are software-defined.

But to match the requirements of organisations of all shapes and sizes today, the new breed of software-based object storage will need to include unified file and object-based storage in a single solution. It will also need to provide multiple ways to access stored data through APIs, along with file sync and share capabilities.

Awareness around object storage is growing fast and that should, in turn, lead to more investment and development, leading to more solutions. After nearly 20 years waiting in the wings, object storage could be finally be about to take centre stage in the storage market.

Mario Blandini, chief evangelist, SwiftStack