Object storage: The modern storage solution

There are various ways of storing data and making it available to all users, especially for businesses. In addition to the conventional option, file storage, and the more recent option, block storage, object storage has attracted a lot of attention in recent years. It is also known as object-based storage and is now used in many professional settings. Cloud providers also offer this modern storage method.

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Highly scalable

What is object storage?

While file storage uses complete files when storing data and block storage divides files into blocks of equal size, object storage stores data as objects. An object can be imagined as a package. It contains the data as well as numerous metadata and a unique ID. This ID enables a flat structure. Instead of a complex folder structure, data in object-based storage is stored side by side. The actual location (local or remote) is irrelevant.

In contrast to conventional file storage, the metadata for object-based storage is freely selectable. Instead of only storing information about the name, creation date, file type, etc. individual metadata can be defined for each file. For example, information from the corresponding application can be integrated or user data can be inserted.

Access to the data, i.e. communication with the storage, occurs via Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and via a REST API. This simplifies the connection between client and object storage, because any computer can handle HTTP, which is common practice on the Internet. The storage can be addressed with a few commands:

  • PUT: creates an object
  • GET: reads an object
  • DELETE: deletes an object
  • LIST: lists all objects

Advantages and disadvantages of object-based storage

Object storage offers several advantages. On the one hand, the flat structure provides fast access. Rather than the user specifying the storage space, the system does this automatically. Users do not see where the object is actually located. But this is not important since the object can be found and accessed directly via the unique ID. This is why object storage is ideal for a public cloud. Storage space can be ideally used in this way.

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The flat structure also allows the high scalability of object storage. If more resources are needed, new capacities can be easily added by creating a new storage node. The other advantage is the rich metadata, which can be user-defined. This allows data to be analyzed much more effectively than is possible with other storage methods.

On the other hand, object storage is not particularly good in terms of performance. Although data can be retrieved quickly, modifying objects is tedious. Instead of changing data directly, a completely new object must be created each time. This is why object storage is ideal for very large amounts of data and especially if the data is static. If frequent changes are necessary, object-based storage is not the best option.

Advantages Disadvantages
Highly scalable Changes are time-consuming
Flat structure  
Rich metadata  

Object storage vs. file storage vs. block storage

Which storage method is the perfect one? It depends a lot on what it is used for. Block, object or file system - each method has its own specific properties and is therefore suitable for different tasks.

  Object storage Block storage File storage
Unit Object Block File
Scalability Highly scalable Highly scalable Poorly scalable
Performance Bad Good Average
Direct unit updates No Yes Yes
Price Average High Low
Metadata Many No Only selected
Application Static data/cloud storage Transactional databases File exchange
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