Object Storage Meaning: Object storage is widely used in the cloud and increasingly used in on-premises infrastructure. It’s therefore advisable for anyone involved with IT in any way to have at least a basic understanding of it. With that in mind, here is a simple guide to object storage.
Technically, object storage is a storage architecture that treats data as objects. Each data item is given an individual object identifier. This is assigned by a specialized algorithm. When applications/services require the data, they simply call it by its identifier.
Object storage is the successor to hierarchical storage architecture. With hierarchical storage architecture, storage is segmented into units. These units start out large and get progressively smaller. You can think of this as being analogous to a drive having folders with sub-folders, sub-sub-folders, and so on.
Each segment is given an address and each data item is housed in a unit with a specific address. When applications/services require the data, they go and look for it at its address.
When IT first began, computers were essentially used for scientific purposes. Even when they started to move into the mainstream, computers were still used for highly technical work. This meant that most of the data processed by them was highly structured (e.g. spreadsheets and databases).
Additionally, computers were much lower-powered than they are today. Top-end machines had lower hardware specifications than modern entry-level cellphones. This meant that developers had to use the available resources as carefully and strategically as possible.
Traditional file-storage architecture was therefore developed to manage structured data in a very economical way. For years, it served its purpose very well. Over time, however, the way people used computers changed.
They started to be increasingly used to process unstructured data such as media files. The quantity of data processed increased massively. At the same time, computer hardware became significantly more powerful. This meant that traditional, hierarchical means of data management became less and less fit for their intended purposes.
A solution was needed and object storage was developed to provide it. Object storage does not handle structured data with the same efficiency as traditional data-storage architecture. By contrast, it handles unstructured data with vastly more efficiency than traditional data-storage architecture. This means that, overall, it is almost always the best option.
Object storage (meaning in IT) has numerous benefits over traditional data-storage solutions. Here is an overview of the main ones.
A lot of modern data is unstructured. Probably the most obvious example of this is media files. When hierarchical data architecture was still the standard, media files had to be used with great care. They were a serious drain on IT resources.
Object storage played a large role in resolving the issues relating to large, unstructured files such as media files. It, therefore, enabled media files to be included in all sorts of communications. This has massively improved businesses’ ability to communicate both internally and externally.
The phrase “big data” exists for a reason. Data is now being generated in quantities that would have been literally unimaginable in the early days of it. Back then, data really was measured in bytes. Now, the largest unit of memory accepted by the SI is the yottabyte. This is equivalent to about one septillion bytes.
It’s entirely possible that this will increase in the future. Even if it doesn’t, the sort of data regularly produced by businesses is far more than hierarchical structures can handle. This is particularly true of enterprises that often rely on big data analytics.
Modern businesses value flexibility. What’s more, this flexibility may need to extend to responding to circumstances at very short (or without) notice. Object storage is far more suited to this than hierarchical storage. This is one of the main reasons why it’s so widely used in public cloud storage facilities.
The headline selling point of the public cloud is that businesses can commission and decommission resources immediately. Adding and removing storage on the fly is massively easier with object storage than with hierarchical storage.
Object storage typically stores data across multiple storage nodes. These can be in different physical locations. This data replication serves two purposes. Firstly, it allows data to be served more quickly as users can access it from the node nearest to them. Secondly, it helps to protect against hardware failures.
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