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Object storage will be 'huge' in stateless world of web and mobile

SNIA Europe director says traditional SAN and NAS are not built for the stateless world of web-based apps and workloads, with object storage set to become dominant

Object storage is going to be huge, and that’s because internet-based computing has brought a more stateless model of operations that will only increase as pervasive online and mobile-based operations take further hold.

Those are the views of Alex McDonald, of NetApp’s chief technology officer’s office and director and vice-chair for the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), Europe.

McDonald says we are moving to a more stateless world in terms of IT operations and that this is a huge opportunity for object storage, which suits stateless operations more than traditional storage.

The flipside of the argument is that traditional storage architectures such as file and block-based network attached storage (NAS) and storage area network (SAN) are too tied to stateful operations to be well-suited to the web- and mobile-based operations that are increasingly prevalent.

“The key thing is the way technology is moving,” said McDonald. “The web is largely stateless. It looks transactional but it’s not. Each page contains its own state and communication is very loose between pages, by cookies for example. Traditional storage by contrast is very state-bound with its Posix conventions, its programming strings, file name hierarchies and reads and writes against files.”

Object storage is, or should be, about complete statelessness, because it doesn’t have to deal with the complexities of the file system and communications about it. An object is dealt with, and that’s it.

“It’s a simpler model that’s easier for clients and servers to handle. It’s stateless, with no conversation going backwards and forwards about a thing and no partial states,” he said.

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This also makes object storage more suited to a world of pervasive operations, often mobile, in which communications may not be perfect.

“Object storage will be the predominant way of storing data,” said McDonald, citing Facebook as a key pioneer here. “The public-facing part of the internet doesn’t think in terms of files. Object storage is going to dominate.”

But object storage faces challenges to achieve this. It is in most current incarnations well-suited to storage of large amounts of data, but access times are relatively slow. These are the key areas suppliers must address.

“Object storage needs to be able to write at high speed and cut latency on reads for serious applications,” he said. “Some are addressing this with, for example, the use of flash media.”

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