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What are the benefits of using an object storage system with file access?

With increasingly demanding workloads, NAS systems can have a hard time keeping up. Can using NAS with an object storage option relieve some of these problems?

Traditional storage systems use an architecture that's similar to a file system to store, organize and retrieve data blocks. The complexity of this data structure manifests in the amount of overhead the system generates to handle storage transactions -- overhead that's defined by metadata stored and CPU cycles consumed to process it. Growth of these systems is bound by their ability to store and process metadata, a situation that's exacerbated by the inefficiency of this hierarchical data structure.

A file storage system adds another layer of metadata processing to the above situation. In fact, some NAS systems have an effective limit of 50% of their physical capacity because their processing power can't keep up with the demand created by many types of workloads as they fill up. But using a NAS option with an object storage architecture -- providing file system access to an object storage system -- can address this problem.

Some object storage systems offer a NAS capability built into their storage systems. But most vendors that offer file system functionality use a NAS controller or gateway that handles the file system interface to the object-based architecture, the same way NAS gateways have been used with block storage SANs. The gateway handles the translation to the appropriate file protocol and the mapping of files to objects, while the object storage system handles the physical storage of data.

One of the benefits of using a NAS option with an object storage system is increased scalability. The underlying storage system can map files directly to objects, reducing the metadata storage and processing load and increasing the system's ability to grow. In addition, this efficiency means object-based NAS systems consume less controller resources, reducing overall system costs.

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This was last published in November 2014

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