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11 Object Storage Vendors To Watch

  • 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)

  • Caringo


    A pioneer of object storage, Caringo is a software-only solution that is very well featured and designed for solid operation with large data sets and unstructured data. The code can run on most COTS systems, making deployment a day or two in most cases and saving enterprises a great deal on hardware costs. If you are looking at searching or analytics, this is a powerful option.

  • DDN


    DDN’s claim to fame is its WOS software and appliances based on it. These appliances come in the now familiar 12-drive and 60-drive boxes. WOS is a very solid product and, like most DDN products, lays claim to performance leadership, with high random access IOs per second.

  • Dell


    Dell followed the third-party software route and settled in with Scality as acode vendor. Scality’s Ring object store is well-accepted in the market for proprietary solutions and is a well-featured product, with SSD support and erasure coding. Ring clearly creates differentiation from an open source solution such as Ceph, but Scality could be bought by HPE, which is an investor in the company. That would clearly complicate things for Dell. Overall, it's unclear how the acquisition of EMC may impact Dell's storage line.

  • Dell EMC


    EMC, acquired by Dell last month, first offered object storage in its Atmos product, which used a server front end to existing JBOD arrays. Price was always an issue, compared with third-party and open-source software; as a result the product made no headway with the major cloud service providers. Atmos' lack of features, such as erasure coding, also was an issue.

    EMC phased out Atmos in favor of Elastic Cloud Storage, which is an evolution of the Atmos approach and still uses traditional JBODs. ECS code is much improved over Atmos, with support for S3 and Swift as well as Hadoop and NFS.

  • Hitachi Data Systems


    HDS sells the Hitachi Content Platform as an object store. This technology evolved from an archiving system and still has features such as WORM support. Packaging is much more open than EMC, however, with 12-drive appliances, server/JBOD combinations, and even an option to license just the software. The technology scales out of the 12-drive node up to a petabyte, while the server/JBOD approach can reach 5.7 PB.

  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise


    Like Dell, HPE teams with Scality to provide object storage products.  HPE packages Scality RING software with its Apollo 400 and ProLiant servers. Early this year, Scality extended its partnership with HPE when HPE made a strategic equity investment in Scality; according to a report, the investment was $10 million.

  • IBM


    IBM teamed with Cleversafe to provide object storage before buying the company last fall. Cleversafe was a successful solution, designed with the smaller COTS appliance model in mind and supporting advanced techniques like erasure coding. IBM offers Cloud Object Storage across its cloud service offering worldwide, where both single-tenant and multi-tenant modes are available, and as a choice for in-house deployment in a hybrid cloud.

  • NetApp


    NetApp seems to have been in denial about object storage for most of the last decade. But it now offers substantial technology in the space, called StorageGrid Webscale. Delivered as either a 12-drive appliance or a 60-drive unit, NetApp claims scaling to 70 PB. In addition to S3 and Swift, these products support filer access via SMB and NFS.

    The StorageGrid software is heading in the software-defined storage direction and can be virtualized on vSphere and OpenStack. It supports data compression and encryption of data at rest.

  • Red Hat Ceph


    Open source Ceph has always enjoyed a high level of interest in the storage world. Seen as a way to undo vendor lock-in and dramatically reduce acquisition costs, the code is well supported by a developer community and has expert leadership in Red Hat. Easy to deploy and very solid, Ceph is now accepted as the preferred object store for OpenStack.