While not as sexy as the flash mobs surrounding the solid-state memory bandwagon, it looks like 2014 will be a good year for object-based storage too. Also known as object storage, this architecture, which first surfaced in 1996, manages data as objects, as opposed to files (NAS) or blocks (SAN), and it is generating a lot of interest. IDC said the OBS market is still in its infancy but it offers a promising future for organizations trying to balance scale, complexity, and costs. The leaders include Amplidata, Cleversafe, Data Direct Networks, EMC, and Scality, with other notables such as Caringo, Cloudian, Hitachi Data Systems, NetApp, Basho, Huawei, NEC, and Tarmin.
Last year OBS solutions were expected to account for nearly 37% of file-and-OBS (FOBS) market revenues, with the overall FOBS market projected to be worth $23 billion, and reach $38 billion in 2017, according to IDC. At a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.5% from 2012 to 2017, scale-out FOBS – delivered either as software, virtual storage appliances, hardware appliances, or self-built for delivering cloud-based offerings – is taking advantage of the evolution of storage to being software-based.
“FOBS solutions are much more versatile and will quickly outpace more rigid, hardware-based options,” said Ashish Nadkarni, Research Director, Storage Systems, IDC. “Scale-up solutions, including unitary file servers and scale-up appliances and gateways, will fall on hard times throughout the forecast period, experiencing sluggish growth through 2016 before beginning to decline in 2017.”
IDC said emerging OBS technologies include: Compustorage (hyperconverged), Seagate Open Storage platform, and Intel’s efforts with OpenStack. The revenue of all of OBS vendors combined is relatively small (but expected to grow rapidly) with a total addressable market (TAM) expected to be in the billions, noted Nadkarni. “Vendors like EMC and NetApp have not ignored this market – if anything they have laid the groundwork for it.”
In December Storage Switzerland analyst Eric Slack wrote that one of the drivers of OBS is the huge growth in unstructured data. “This is one of the primary benefits of object storage, that its flat index is more easily searched by a computer than a traditional file system.”
Then there are the economic benefits, he added. Traditional RAID-based storage systems use data replication to create multiple copies in order to protect a given data set, with this capacity overhead reaching as high as 300%, making these storage systems unfeasible. “Object storage with erasure coding can actually provide better data protection with overhead under 50%.”
In addition, because many object storage systems are software solutions that can be run on nodes using low cost server hardware and high capacity disk drives, they can cost significantly less than proprietary NAS systems. Throw in better data protection and enhanced features that can enhance search performance and efficient data tiering and it’s easy to see why OBS is catching on.
Just prior to the IDC study, Scality, a software-defined, petabyte-scale storage vendor, was recognized as the best object storage solution for performance, scalability and cost by GigaOM Research. “Scality currently does an overall better job and does so at the lowest TCO,” said GigaOM Research analyst Marc Staimer.
“The conclusion the vast majority of IT storage pros reach is that traditional storage systems are just much too costly to justify for the exascale environment,” he added. “Object-storage capacity and performance scalability is theoretically unlimited and has been proven to scale beyond 10 exabytes”.
Founded in 2009, Scality beefed up its C-suite this week with the additions of Erwan Menard as Chief Operating Officer and Philippe Mechanick as Chief Financial Officer. Sandwiched between the bullish research reports and the front-office additions Scality Director Of Product Strategy Philippe Nicolas told IT Trends & Analysis that, like many others, his company addresses the limits of traditional legacy storage offerings with a Share Nothing approach. Operating on commodity servers, its RING software-defined storage solution with scale-out file system support uses a distributed, shared-nothing architecture, with built-in tiering for flexibility in storage configuration, and low latency, resilience and high performance data access.
The system gives you an ID which identifies the content and you don’t care where the content is stored, he said. “It’s like valet parking, give the valet the ticket and he gives you back the car.”
Looking ahead, Nicolas said the company wants to be considered as a serious player in the exascale movement, “especially as our solution was designed with the exascale in mind.” The key is to be truly limitless, to be really scalable both in capacity and performance.