Why Object Storage is Superior to SAN/NAS
When it comes to storing and managing data, there is the modern, cloud-native way and there is the traditional, appliance oriented way. Needless to say, object storage is the modern, cloud-native way. While it would be simple to suggest that MinIO is hopelessly biased towards object storage (it is, afterall, the only thing we do), that would miss a key point - namely, the team behind MinIO built the GlusterFS. Given that Gluster was (and may still be) one of the most elegant and functional distributed file systems in the market, the mere fact that the team looked ahead and started an object storage company should tell you this isn’t MinIO’s singular focus, it is about what is the most functional, scalable and resilient solution for data.
Object Storage has fundamental advantages over traditional SAN and NAS solutions. In this blog, we'll dive deeper into the benefits of Object Storage and why it is becoming the preferred storage solution for many organizations.
One of the clearest advantages of object storage over SAN/NAS is its scalability. Traditional SAN and NAS solutions become very expensive (capex and opex) as the amount of data grows. They simply are not designed for scale. Object storage, on the other hand, is designed to handle massive amounts of data and can be easily scaled as needed without any significant changes to the infrastructure. This scalability is achieved through the use of a distributed architecture and software-based erasure coding. Object storage systems are typically made up of many individual storage nodes that work together to store and manage data. As new nodes are added to the system, the overall capacity and performance of the system increases. Performance at scale is a critical concept in the enterprise today and that is what modern, high performance object stores like MinIO can deliver.
To understand a little more about how MinIO approaches scaling check out the post on storage pools.
Because object storage is designed to handle large amounts of data, it is typically much more cost-effective than traditional SAN and NAS solutions. This is particularly true for organizations that need to store massive amounts of unstructured data, such as media files, backups, and archives. It should be noted that “massive” for MinIO and “massive” for a legacy SAN/NAS solutions are pretty different. “Massive” for a SAN/NAS is about 1PB. That is small in the object storage world. Everyone has a PB these days - even the homelab folks. Massive for object storage is exabyte scale and growing.
Object storage is also highly efficient when it comes to storage utilization. Traditional SAN and NAS systems often have a high level of overhead, which means that a significant portion of the available storage space is consumed by the system itself. Object storage, on the other hand, is designed to be very efficient, which means that you can get more bang for your buck.
This is something you can test for yourself. Check out our erasure code calculator. It enables you to have a direct line of sight into exactly what your utilization will be at differing parity choices. Try and find a SAN/NAS vendor willing to provide this level of transparency. You won’t because they don’t like to talk about it.
Object storage is designed to be highly durable and fault-tolerant. This means that even if individual disks or servers fail, your data will still be safe and accessible. Further, MinIO’s built-in replication and data protection features ensure data is always protected and available.
MinIO’s erasure coding approach is highly optimized (for both performance and resilience) and there is a lot of content on our blog (EC101 and EC vs RAID) and in our documentation. Erasure coding provides data protection for distributed storage because it is resilient and efficient. It splits data files into data and parity blocks and encodes it so that the primary data is recoverable even if part of the encoded data is not available. Horizontally scalable distributed storage systems rely on erasure coding to provide data protection by saving encoded data across multiple drives and nodes. If a drive or node fails or data becomes corrupted, the original data can be reconstructed from the blocks saved on other drives and nodes.
Object storage is accessible from anywhere, at any time, and on any device. Additionally, object storage is designed to be API-driven, which means that developers can easily integrate it into their applications and workflows. Most SANs are restricted to legacy data center protocols and limited to a single data center.
This is really important.
When it comes to building modern web applications, RESTful APIs are fundamentally superior to POSIX. While some may argue that these technologies serve different purposes, in the cloud-native world in which we live - RESTful APIs dominate. People simply don’t build new applications with POSIX.
First off, RESTful APIs offer greater flexibility in terms of data exchange and communication protocols. Unlike POSIX, which is primarily designed for file system access, RESTful APIs can handle a wide range of data types, from simple text strings to complex multimedia files. This makes it easier to integrate with different applications, platforms, and devices, and to handle different use cases.
Second, RESTful APIs are designed to be scalable and can handle a large number of concurrent requests. By using HTTP protocols, RESTful APIs can easily leverage caching, load balancing, and other performance optimization techniques. POSIX, which was developed for local file system access, and does not scale well in distributed or cloud-based environments - it is simply too chatty.
Third, RESTful APIs provide better security options than POSIX. By using modern security protocols like TLS, OAuth, and JSON Web Tokens, RESTful APIs can offer secure authentication, authorization, and data encryption. POSIX, on the other hand, relies on traditional file system permissions, which are rarely sufficient for modern web applications.
Fourth, RESTful APIs are designed to be platform-independent and can be accessed from any device with an internet connection. This makes it easier to develop applications that work across different platforms and operating systems.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, RESTful APIs are much easier to use and develop than POSIX. With RESTful APIs, developers can use simple HTTP verbs like GET, POST, PUT, and DELETE to interact with data. In contrast, POSIX requires developers to use more complex system calls and file system operations, which can be difficult to work with. There are fewer and fewer developers with POSIX experience with each passing day.
Unlike legacy SAN and NAS solutions, which are file-based, object storage is metadata-driven. This means that each object is accompanied by a set of metadata that describes it. This metadata can include information such as the object's creation date, file type, or keywords.
MinIO’s atomic approach to metadata is unique, hyper-scalable and ultra-fast. Other object storage vendors have not invested the effort here and rely on third-party, centralized, metadata databases to handle the work. This is a poor choice.
A metadata-driven approach makes it easy to search and retrieve objects based on specific criteria. It even allows for predicate pushdown like S3 Select. For example, you could easily search for all objects created within a certain time period or all objects with a specific keyword. To achieve this with a SAN/NAS you need a dedicated application layer. This, as you might imagine, has spawned a fairly healthy ecosystem of companies that are more than happy to impose a tax on your SAN/NAS in order to have it work like a web app.
Object storage was always primary storage in the cloud. As the cloud operating model expands, object storage becomes the primary storage type on-prem, in the colo and at the edge. The reasons are numerous - from scalability to security. In the words of a very large financial applications company, “we will add to our existing SAN/NAS footprint as necessary - but everything new is going onto object storage. Overtime, those legacy applications and workloads will get eliminated, we won’t even bother to modernize them, we will just write cloud-native versions.”
We hear that everyday. We suspect you do too.