11 Object Storage Vendors To Watch

Object storage is gaining traction. Find out who's who in the bustling market.

Jim O'Reilly

October 24, 2016

10 Slides

Since Amazon Web Services introduced Simple Storage Service (S3) nearly a decade ago, the S3 API has become a de-facto standard for object storage access. S3's success helped facilitate enterprise acceptance of object storage, with AWS' enormous data store demonstrating the scalability of the object approach.

While all major object stores support an S3 REST interface, there are distinct differences among vendors, which can be categorized by where their software originated. Several designed their own code, while another group based their appliances on purchased software. A third group uses open-source code in appliances. A substantial part of the end-user market simply uses software or open source code, so a fourth group is their suppliers. We should also not ignore cloud service providers who, collectively, are a major influence on the object store market.

Companies with homegrown code tend to display their cultural and business heritage. They are RAID array companies already used to bolting smart controllers onto the front of their arrays to service, for example, iSCSI or NAS filer delivery. Vendors such as EMC and Hitachi Data Systems followed that path with limited success, given the shift in packaging from large groups of hard-disk drives in arrays to a few solid-state drives or HDDs in a small appliance, a preferred form factor in object storage.

Several of the major systems vendors including Dell, HPE and IBM have chosen to add third-party commercial object stores to their own platforms. While they obtained tried and true software, combining licensed code with proprietary systems does lead to higher prices and vendor lock-in, compared with open source or end-user code licensing.

Open-source code is storage vendors' worst nightmare. Ceph is proving very popular, even to the extent of displacing Swift, the official object store for OpenStack, in many installations. Like Linux, Ceph is supported by Red Hat.

Another ghost in the wings is the use of software such as Scality or Caringo instead of Ceph to make appliances. Just like Ceph, these products allow end users to build out object store clusters on low-cost COTS hardware they’ve purchased through distribution.

Finally, the major cloud providers like AWS roll their own object storage designs. They specify hardware to Chinese ODMs and buy drives direct from their manufacturers, avoiding the high markups and product lock-ins associated with traditional vendors. They don't share their design information or code, but they constitute a major influence on the object storage sector nonetheless, as the S3 interface demonstrates.

The market for object storage is a rich one, with vendors offering various alternatives to fit any enterprise risk profile or budget. The migration towards converged, universal storage, demonstrated best by Ceph, will expand object storage into the block-IO and NAS markets, and is the likely future model for storage in general.

Read on to learn about key players, listed in alphabetical order, in the object storage market.

(Image: KruIUA/iStockphoto)

About the Author(s)

Jim O'Reilly


Jim O'Reilly was Vice President of Engineering at Germane Systems, where he created ruggedized servers and storage for the US submarine fleet. He has also held senior management positions at SGI/Rackable and Verari; was CEO at startups Scalant and CDS; headed operations at PC Brand and Metalithic; and led major divisions of Memorex-Telex and NCR, where his team developed the first SCSI ASIC, now in the Smithsonian. Jim is currently a consultant focused on storage and cloud computing.

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