The difference between block and file storage makes heads spin due to the complexity of definitions and technical jargon across the internet. Even a technical person sometimes forgets the business value and makes decision fatigue their best friend when trying to figure out the value proposition of one over the other.
In this post, we would go through the difference and simplify things so that you know which bookmark to click whenever you’re stuck.
What is Block Storage?
Block storage is the most basic and oldest type of data storage. Data is stored in fixed-sized chunks known as — you guessed it — ‘blocks’ in block storage.
A block often only contains a fraction of the data. The application uses SCSI calls to determine the correct address of the blocks and then organizes them to construct the entire file. Because the data is fragmented, the address is the sole way to identify a block; there is no metadata connected with blocks. When the application and storage are close together, this structure results in quicker performance, but it can cause additional latency when they are apart.
If you want examples: ISCSI, SAN, and local disc are the most common types of block storage.
Advantages of Block Storage
Lowest Possible Latency
Block storage provides with lowest possible latency due to high performance.
Block storage has high redundancy (Redundancy in cloud architecture ensures that any individual failure has a fallback within the architecture). All of the blocks contain their own address by which the data can be called up.
Block storage has a very high speed compared to other storage systems.
Block storage has very high performance due to the high number of IOPS and the low latency it provides.
Block storage allows data to be spread around multiple environments because of the decoupling of data from user environments.
Disadvantages of Block Storage
- Storage is linked to a single server at a time.
- You must pay for all block storage space allocated to you, even if you are not utilizing it.
- Only an active server (VM in cloud) can provide access to block storage by establishing a file system and then you’re immediately ready to access it.
What is Object Storage?
Object storage is a storage module that resorts to data storage by taking a piece of data and designating it as an object.
Metadata drives object storage. In an object storage system, the data are kept in separate storehouses instead of files and folder. The data are associated with metadata and a unique identifier to form a storage pool.
Advantages of Object Storage
Greater Data Analytics
Data analytics is done vigorously in object storage as metadata drives it. As a result of this, classification of every piece of data is possible, leading to a greater opportunity for analysis.
Infinite scalability is one of the most critical advantages of object storage. We can keep on storing data without a limit and easily accessible through HTTP requests.
Fast Data Retrieval
Categorization of data and absence of folder hierarchy makes us faster retrieval of data in object storage.
Optimization of Resources
As the filing hierarchy is absent in object storage and as the metadata is completely customizable, fewer limitations are present in object storage than block storage.
Object storage is scale-out in nature due to which all of the data are stored at a very low cost.
Disadvantages of Object Storage
- Excessive latency when compared to block storage
- Because Object Storage does not permit the alteration of a specific data blob, each object must be read and written in its entirety, which may cause performance concerns.
- An object store cannot be mounted in the same way that a conventional disc can.
How Object and Block Storage Differ?
From the advantages and disadvantages of both object storage and block storage, we can clearly see that both of the storage modules differ a lot.
The main difference that will catch everyone’s eye is that object storage is very inexpensive compared to block storage. As scalability is not an issue in object storage, customers can store a humongous amount of data without a problem. Popular cloud storage platforms like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform use object storage as their storage module.
For object storage, let’s use Amazon S3 as an example. It saves the object in a resource known as “buckets.” Another case in point is the Azure Blob storage. For users that need to store a large amount of unstructured data on the cloud.
In the cloud, there is also a block storage option. As an example, consider AWS Elastic Block Storage (EBS). They also offer raw storage to which you may connect your EC2 instance. When you connect the EC2 instance to your storage, it establishes a file system and is immediately ready to access it. Premium Storage in Microsoft Azure provides high performance, low latency disc running on Azure virtual machines with up to 32TB of storage.
Object storage uses metadata, but block storage uses the file hierarchy system. The use of metadata facilitates object storage a lot, and due to it, greater classification of every piece of data is possible. Web application giants like Facebook and Spotify use object storage to store photos and other rich media. Data centres also use object storage to store the same types of data as it ensures high availability and reliability.
In block storage, we can edit a part of a file, while in object storage, we can’t do that. In object storage, the whole object is considered a unit. As a result, it can be viewed, updated, and rewritten as an entire object, which can negatively affect performance depending on the object’s size.
Object Storage can’t be accessed without a running operating system, whereas block storage can do it by trading in the option of connecting as a traditional disk.
Also, we can see that block storage requires a lot of maintenance, like remapping volumes and others, while object storage requires none.
How are Object and Block Storage used?
The usage of object storage and block storage is very different. If we look at some of the prime use cases of block storage, we can find that it is an ideal match for databases as they require consistent I/O performance and low-latency connectivity. Also, block storage can be used for RAID volumes where multiple disks are combined and organized through mirroring.
An application requiring server-side processing will require block storage. Many on the list are Java, PHP, .Net, etc. Also, running mission-critical applications like Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, SAP, etc., uses block storage.
On the other hand, object storage is used in delivering rich media. It is used to define workflows for managing unstructured data by leveraging industry-leading solutions. It manages distributed content and also helps in optimizing the value of our data throughout its lifecycle and as a result of which helps in delivering competitive storage services.
Another important usage of object storage is found in IoT (Internet of Things) and machine learning. It helps in the efficient managing of machine-to-machine data. It is again used for intelligent analytics, and because of which it helps in compressing the cost and time of the design process.
Value Proposition of Block Storage vs Object Storage
Object storage comes in handy if you have loads of data and traffic incoming (particularly several TBs) or want to store a backup as it saves a lot of your money by very cost-efficient.
For a mid-market level, you can always use block storage as most of your data will be stored in databases, and because of the low quantity of data, the file hierarchy system will not be a problem. Both object storage and block storage have unique advantages and disadvantages. So, you have to choose one fully on your needs.
Personally for me, I will prefer object storage because of the infinite scalability and the cost-efficiency.
With the end of this post, I hope you won’t be needing to drown in the spiral maze of thoughts while choosing object storage and block storage. Feel free to scroll down to read some superb posts and if you want them delivered to you into your mailbox directly, subscribing to our newsletter is the way.