Object Storage: A Journey of Change

No one has to tell you that the amount of digital content being created is growing at an explosive rate. More titles, more formats, more ads, more everything. Managing this tsunami of content is a neverending challenge that drives people to look to innovative technologies for solutions.

Determining the best way to manage your content depends on what you need to do with it. What is the business model the system needs to support? How do you deliver and protect the content? What happens if access to that content is disrupted for some reason?

One content-management solution being discussed quite often today is object storage. Object storage combines the digital assets with metadata about the content and gives each asset a unique identifier. You then use the metadata to find the content identifier without having to remember where in the file hierarchy you stored the asset. With object storage, you have no file system hierarchy to monitor and manage because it’s all done for you. Object storage is well worth considering, but at this stage, it’s best to proceed with cautious optimism.

Even though many in other industries have touted the content-management benefits of object storage over the years, object-storage solutions are actually new to the media industry, and most applications have not yet been designed to work with object-storage systems. Object storage is not just a technology; it’s a new methodology for content management that is still evolving.

One benefit of object storage is that it will yield significant savings across your operations. Even so, if you are looking to save money just based on the per-Terabyte cost of storage, you may be disappointed. You will need to consider the entire object-storage investment before you make any decisions.

It’s important to understand who and what will be accessing the object-storage pool. People access and process content data differently than applications do, so it’s good to know what metadata schema will handle all of your needs. This analysis takes time and requires a lot of preplanning. Without this analysis, you might waste time and money bouncing off a lot of roadblocks.

Another consideration is to look at how you might change some of your operational workflows to take advantage of the benefits of object storage. If you design a geographically diverse object-storage pool, you’ll want to redesign your workflows to take advantage of the non-disruptive operations object storage offers. Designing and testing new workflows will also take time and resources.

Object storage is the wave of the future in content storage and management, but like any other wave, you can either ride it or be drowned by it.

Mark Daniel is sales manager of Americas for the Media & Entertainment group at NetApp, a Sunnyvale, Calif., data storage systems supplier.