Storage Soup

Apr 11 2013   7:09AM GMT

Don’t forget management when developing object storage systems

Randy Kerns Randy Kerns Profile: Randy Kerns

The massive amount of unstructured data being created has vendors pushing to deliver object storage systems.

There are many object systems available now from new and established vendors, and others are privately talking about bringing out new object systems soon.

Objects, in the context of the new generation of object storage systems, are viewed as unstructured data elements (think files) with additional metadata. The additional metadata carries information such as the required data protection, longevity, access control and notification, compliance requirements, original application creation information, and so on. New applications may directly write a new form of objects and metadata but the current model is that of files with added metadata. Billions of files. Probably more than traditional file systems can handle.

Looking at the available object storage systems leads to the conclusion that these systems are not developed to meet the real IT needs. Vendors are addressing the issue of storing massive number of objects (and selling lots of storage), but the real problem is about organizing the information. File systems usually depend on users and applications to define the structure of information as they store the information. This is usually done in a hierarchical structure that is viewed through applications, the most ubiquitous being Windows Explorer.

We need a way to make it easier to organize the information according to a different set of criteria, such as the type of application, user (person viewing the information) needs, age of information, or other selectable information. The management should include controls for protection and selectivity for user restores of previously protected copies of information. Other information management should be available at the control view rather than through management interfaces of other applications. This seems only natural but it has not turned out this way.

Vendor marketing takes advantage of opportunities to ride a wave of customer interest. Vendors will characterize some earlier developed product as an object file system just as today almost everything that exists is being called “software-defined something.” But the solution for managing the dramatic growth of unstructured data must be developed specifically to address those needs and include characteristics to advance management of information as well as storage.

The investment in addressing object management needs to be made, otherwise, the object storage systems will be incomplete. Linking the managing of information and the object storage systems seems like a major advantage for customers. This will be an interesting area to watch develop.

(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).

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  • OcarinaMarketing
    The concept of improving data organization, tagging, and content-aware access models is in tension with the need for standardization, which is required for economies of scale. In other words if you look across industries how the problem of "asset management" is solved, there are multitudes of disparate approaches to indexing and metadata management. Although things like Semantic File Systems and Virtual Views provide metadata-driven virtual views of the data (think itunes for files), these were 'neat' but were never commercially delivered and in practice probably wouldn't displace the utility of the external database. Although OpenStack provides an opportunity for object storage standards initiatives, these will all be virtualization centric and IMO not focused on improving the large-scale data manageability problem.
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