Rethinking Enterprise Storage

With soaring data growth occurring across all industries, IT planners need to rethink how they design and implement enterprise storage technology. Traditional NAS and SAN platforms have served as the bulwark of data center storage capacity for decades, however, storing information on these premium storage assets is becoming increasingly cost prohibitive for many organizations. As a result, a new paradigm is needed to augment existing data center storage assets to more efficiently store and protect the vast amounts of information piling up across enterprise environments.

Aging Data Gracefully

As data ages, its relative business value begins to decline and according to various industry studies, only a small percentage of business data (20-30%) actually needs to reside on high performance storage capacity. This means that upwards of 80% of a corporation’s data can live on less expensive storage.

The challenge is many organizations want to retain the majority of their information on disk so that it can be monetized. The question is, what type of storage technology can drive greater efficiencies while enabling next generation business applications, like business intelligence (BI) and data analytic systems, to readily access deep reservoirs of information?

Big Data Avalanche

To answer this question, we need to consider what type of data is growing the most. Many industry sources estimate that the vast majority of new business data growth is from unstructured data sources. While typically associated with user data, most of this growth is coming from “Big Data”, or unstructured data that consists of document images, audio and video data and machine sensor or log data; generally speaking, this is information that doesn’t live inside a database system.

Is NAS The Answer?

It may seem that any low-cost NAS system would be an ideal candidate for storing large volumes of unstructured data, however, after accounting for RAID protection, nightly backup to tape (and/or offsite replication), as well as administrative overhead, the fully burdened costs of even low-cost NAS storage can quickly add up.

Moreover, traditional NAS solutions generally don’t provide the scale necessary to support rapidly growing unstructured data stores. As we discussed in a recent article, “Scale-Out NAS or Object Storage”, while next generation NAS offerings can provide the scale necessary to store growing volumes of unstructured data, it can be cost prohibitive. Tape offers great economies of scale for storing large volumes of data but retrieving information from tape may not be rapid enough for many I/O demanding BI business applications.

A New Storage Paradigm

Object storage technology, on the other hand, can provide a very efficient way to scale enterprise storage capacity. Interestingly, object storage has been around for well over a decade, however, it was typically deployed as a closed-end solution for storing fixed data content for compliance purposes; such as medical images, financial transactions and email.

Now software solutions, like those provided by Cloudian, enable organizations to transform existing data center storage assets or low-cost commodity disk, into a nearly unlimited pool of low-cost object storage. This enables IT organizations to keep a tight lid on storage costs while providing business applications with ready access to potentially PB’s worth of unstructured data assets.

More Storage, Less Management

In fact, since Cloudian natively protects data by efficiently utilizing “object dispersal” or “erasure coding” to disperse data objects both within a disk array enclosure and across multiple disk arrays geographically, there is no need to perform nightly backups of this information; saving organizations the expense and administrative hassle of backing up large data stores.

Efficiency across any type of data

Today’s object stores are smart and use the most efficient data storage based on the type of data being stored. For example, Cloudian’s HyperstoreTM can chunk and spread data across many nodes for very large objects or it can identify smaller objects and store those efficiently in a distributed nodal database. This provides the efficiency of many processing nodes for storing large objects while providing local storage-like latency for smaller objects.

Peer-to-Peer Scaling with Continuous Availability

In today’s world of exploding data volumes, the storage system needs the ability to scale on the fly and even reduce data storage space on the fly. Modern object storage systems are peer-to-peer architectures that can dynamically adjust to the changing storage requirements. With Cloudian, you can add nodes or remove nodes from the storage cluster without any disruption of service. You can even do non disruptive upgrades of the storage nodes and maintain the availability of the storage service.

Building the Hybrid Cloud

Cloudian’s technology is also fully compatible with Amazon’s S3 application programming interface (API). This enables organizations to utilize Amazon’s S3 (simple storage service) cloud storage offering to further augment their need for ready access to low-cost storage resources.

This can be a major advantage for those organizations that lack a secondary data center site for DR purposes. By replicating data from their onsite object storage repository to Amazon’s cloud infrastructure, businesses can enhance their DR strategy without expending the enormous capital required to build-out a dedicated offsite data center.


IT organizations need to rethink about how they are managing storage across the enterprise. The new realities of unfettered unstructured data growth and the demand to cost-effectively access this information to support Big Data initiatives, requires a new approach. Businesses need storage that is low-cost, highly scalable, highly resilient and capable of integrating with public cloud storage to make storage services more like a utility.

Cloudian’s software-defined approach to implementing object storage technology in the enterprise data center provides organizations with a flexible framework for creating a hybrid storage cloud that treats storage-as-a-service. This gives organizations the ability to rapidly provision storage from internal and/or external resources to improve time-to-market and to keep storage costs in check.

Please click below to view a recent webcast between Storage Switzerland and Cloudian, a software-defined object storage solution, on how to build a hybrid cloud storage solution for your business.

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Cloudian is a client of Storage Switzerland

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As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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