There have been reports that a social media firm has purchased 85 PB of object storage from EMC. This is significant for several reasons. Certainly it is a large amount of capacity in a single purchase that should make the salesman and vendor happy. It is also an example of how the major focus of an object storage deployment is on solving a problem involving large amounts of capacity rather than on the underlying technology.
The capacity problem, in this case a service provider environment, is being solved with the new generation of object storage where a RESTful interface such as Amazon’s S3 over HTTP is used to retrieve (get) and store (put) data in the form of objects. Object storage’s flat namespace is another feature used to support massive scaling. There are other characteristics that object storage brings which are covered in Evaluator Group research.
Some preliminary conclusions can be drawn from the reports:
• The massive scale in both capacity and number of objects required for some uses results in massive storage acquisitions. Vendors do not want to miss out on this opportunity. This turns into big money and the opportunity to sell more storage outside of the traditional data center. Additional management software and data protection is an obvious revenue opportunity beyond the storage acquisition.
• Service providers with specialized usages are the early object storage customers. Private clouds or in-house solutions for content repositories, data analytics storage, and archiving will follow.
• As usual, not all major deals will be disclosed. Some customers just won’t be able to be referenced by vendors. One reason for this is that many companies do not want others to know how they are solving problems as a competitive issue.
These conclusions lead to a set of predictions for the future of object storage:
• The frequency of major purchases – meaning multi-petabyte acquisitions – will continue to increase as scaling needs become apparent.
• Vendors will disclose major successes to highlight their “leadership” in the category. The disclosures drive more business with the perception that they must be considered for possible solutions.
• Multiple types of usages will develop over time. Currently, content repositories, archiving, and collaboration solutions are areas where object storage is being applied. Storing of analytics data is another developing use case. There will be more usages and some interesting applications will develop over time.
The storage industry is at the beginning of seeing a new generation of object storage as the solution to massive scaling problems. This will be an interesting area to watch – and to be involved in.
(Randy Kerns is Senior Strategist at Evaluator Group, an IT analyst firm).