Object storage vs NAS . . . in the same product

It has been an interesting month in object storage, with developments that push the technology along but also provided an interesting footnote regarding file access that illustrate an interesting stage of the evolution of object storage.

On the one hand HPE and Scality announced a partnership that will see the object storage provider becoming the technology of choice for HPE in that space. The two companies have had a global distribution agreement since October 2014 but that was with HPE’s server division. Now HPE’s server and storage divisions have embraced Scality as their “standard offering” in object storage, according to Scality CEO Jerome Lecat.

Lecat couldn’t comment on the fate of HPE’s existing StoreAll object storage products but said: “What I know for sure is that for large capacity file and object storage deployments will now be fulfilled by HPE with Scality software on HPE servers.”

Lecat was also keen to stress that there is a strategic imperative to offer object and file access with its products and said more than 50% of Scality’s deployments are scale-out file access, and that “most of our competition is with [EMC’s scale-out NAS product] Isilon.”

Scality does this by providing NFS, Fuse (Linux) and SMB/CIFS file access to its object stores.

It has offered this for some time, but also this week EMC announced an update to its Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) software-defined object storage platform in which a new feature is the inclusion of NFS access.

What’s interesting is that a bleeding edge set of products (software-defined, aimed at cloud use cases and very large volumes of files) should have as a major addition of functionality a protocol that dates back to the mid-80s.

It demonstrates if not an obstacle then a speed bump in the adoption cycle of object storage and that many customers want the great scalability it offers but do not have apps built with object connectivity.

Lecat suggested this is the case.

“The choice [between object and file access] is down to the application. If you have an application that is a completely object-based application then you don’t use file access. But if the application expects Windows, for example, then you need file access,” said Lecat.

Is there a performance penalty when using file access instead of object?

It depends, said Lecat.

“In file access there are a number of metadata operations that are not there in object storage,” he said. “There can be up to a 20% performance penalty, for example if there are a lot of metadata operations and directory movement. But if it’s for streaming files, for example, performance will be almost identical.”