Defining Primary Storage

Defining Primary Storage

During our presentation at Storage Field Day last week, one of the items that came up was the definition of primary storage. It seems that for some, primary storage = workloads that are run on SAN or NAS. Needless to say, that is a ridiculous definition, independent of your opinion of file/block/object.

The fact of the matter is that the definition of primary storage is the data store on which your application runs. That means your database, your AI/ML pipeline, your advanced analytics application. It also means your video streaming platform or your website.

Case in point - in the public cloud, object storage is almost always primary storage. AWS EMR, Redshift, Databricks, Snowflake, BigQuery all run on object storage and have since Day 1. That makes object storage primary storage for those workloads (and thousands more).

One of the delegates pushed back saying that in the public cloud it didn’t matter what the underlying storage class was because it is transparent - and guess what, we agree. It doesn’t matter. That’s the whole point. Whatever storage gets it done for your workloads inside of the constraints of performance, scalability, cost (capex and opex), reliability, resiliency and security is your primary storage.

Increasingly this is object storage. The reason is that object storage is superior to alternative storage options in every one of the preceding areas AND it is cloud native.  

Again, object has ALWAYS been primary storage on the public cloud and remains so today. The cloud providers ensure this by pricing file at 13x and block at 4.6x the cost of object while delivering a superb object storage experience (fast, reliable, secure, RESTful).  

But cloud isn’t a place, it is an operating model. It exists everywhere you want it to. That means that object storage exists as primary storage everywhere you want it to - the aforementioned public cloud, the private cloud, the colos and the edge.

If your company works off the cloud operating model, chances are your company works off of object storage as primary storage. Perhaps not for all workloads, but certainly for some, maybe even most. Perhaps you have some “secondary” storage workloads that depend on object storage, but that only demonstrates that object storage is extensible - it doesn’t disqualify it from handling primary storage workloads - that has already been demonstrated to the tune of billions of dollars in revenue in the public cloud.

When VMware announced Tanzu, did they have any SAN/NAS vendors in the announcement? No. It was all object storage. Did they expect that Tanzu would only deal with “secondary” storage? Of course not. Do they understand the enterprise better than anyone else? You can make a strong argument for that case. VMware sees object storage as primary storage.

The same goes for RedHat OpenShift, HPE Ezmeral, SUSE Rancher. Every one of them sees object storage as primary storage. That is not to say they don’t also think of SAN/NAS as primary storage - they do, they just recognize that those technologies are legacy when it comes to the cloud. They all recognize that the future is …wait for it… primarily object storage.

This isn’t our “position” or opinion. These are the facts. If your business depends on SAN/NAS, this will be uncomfortable, but that doesn't make it untrue. Object storage is primary storage. No one is saying the only storage - just capable of running any workload, anywhere.

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