RAID is a popular storage technology and the reason why it is so highly rated is because it is very secure and reliable. However, with the growing volumes of data there are many more alternatives to the RAID technology which are making their presence felt today. Businesses had been choosing RAID to enjoy advantages like updated data technologies and block storage benefits. This would improve workload performance and protect businesses against data corruption and data loss incidents.

The downside to using RAID is the time taken to rebuild a drive which may have failed. The huge volumes of data make it a long drawn process. As data volumes are more, more storage becomes necessary and RAID becomes less effective as a result. Since risks to the data are also escalated businesses are keen to get an alternative to the RAID.
It is here that object storage deserves a mention because this is fast growing into a popular choice for storing large amounts of data at a much cheaper rate. With object storage becoming more and more advanced and extensively used, people to wonder whether the relevance of RAID has been undermined in the process and whether RAID still has a future in businesses. RAID has been a tried-and tested storage technology, which is designed for maximizing performance.

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It offers an effective way to recover data when any physical drive malfunctions or crashes or the data becomes corrupted for some reason. RAID will group the physical disks and make these look like one logical drive. Storage of data relies on three import methods namely striping, parity and mirroring. Each of these three may be used alone or in combination with the others.

When you use striping, it will split the data uniformly across many drives so as to balance the workloads and thereby enhance performance. Parity will check whether there has been any data loss or if data has been overwritten while being transmitted so as to support fault tolerance. And, mirroring refers to writing of the same data to two and more dries at the same time to guarantee redundancy. When you use RAID, the server gets more spindles for data writing and reading and this means you can achieve quicker throughputs rather than when you use individual drives. Moreover, additional drives will also help to improve availability and resiliency vis-à-vis mirroring and parity.

All said and done, the RAID has not been designed keeping in mind today’s massive data volumes. Whenever any disk array fails data stays in a state of vulnerability till the time the disk is replaced. This can take a long time, depending on the quantity of data involved. During this period, any other disk can also fail and this may aggravate the issue.
So, many people are now looking at erasure coding as an alternative to RAID this will split the data into fragments. These can then be expanded and encoded; it also helps to lessen time as compared to RAID and lowers overheads. Today, the focus is on object storage which has revolutionized the way data is being stored.

The change from RAID to object storage is not only because of RAID features but rather about block storage which is the data structure on which RAID had been constructed. Block storage will break the files into separate data blocks. Each is given a unique ID.

To access these storage blocks the server will use a communication protocol like a fiber channel. The blocks will not have metadata and the storage management decides how and where data should be stored. Block storage finds usage in SAN (Storage Area Network) configurations mainly and these typically include RAID arrays. It is also more flexible and works better than file storage; however, it is complex and hard to maintain.

Object storage is very different from block storage. Instead of dividing the files into blocks this form of storage will keep them and metadata together. This is kept alongside extended metadata which can be customized for meeting application needs. Here, the data and metadata are kept as individual objects. They will share common address and there is no need for navigating file hierarchies. Object storage is found to be simpler and more flexible than RAID or block storage.

Every object is provided with a unique ID as it gets created. This object may be stored on local servers or in cloud data centers remotely. When an app wishes to access the object it must only give the ID no matter where it is based. The application can then connect with the object through an HTTP-based REST API. If it is used with erasure coding object storage can be simpler compared to RAID. The distributed data pool is what makes it easy to store massive amounts of unstructured information which can span geographies. The objects are replicated in multiple drives; drives can also be added when needed.

In object storage you can also include data and metadata together; the latter may be customized with attributes and this leads to advanced large-scale analytics which block storage can achieve. Moreover, object storage turns out to be a much more economical alternative to both block storage and RAID, which are very costly to set up and maintain.

Finally, since the objects inside object storage will have a common address, managing storage becomes easier as there are no issues of overheads and complexities associated with block storage. Object storage also enjoys an edge as far as data protection is concerned. The objects may be replicated far more easily in many secondary systems without having to bear extra overhead costs. Object storage will also use coding for data protection and this also implies lower overheads compared to RAID.

In spite of all these benefits object storage will not be fit for all kinds of enterprise workloads. Block storage may be better suited for applications needing better random access I/O like databases. To update data in an object the whole object has to be rewritten. Businesses also have to understand that they must update their applications to access objects through API when they switch from block to object storage.

So, to conclude, block storage will not disappear overnight and neither will RAID. Businesses which run key business apps, databases, financial systems etc have extensively invested in these systems. Object storage will remove many of the drawbacks of previous technologies and will be easier to manage besides being more cost-effective.
Object storage is a young technology which is evolving and eventually may emerge more reliable than RAID. Till that time, enterprises should ideally balance these two technologies.