Object Storage

Introduction – What is Object Storage


Object storage is a type of data storage architecture that manages data in the form of objects. Each object typically consists of the data itself, varying amounts of metadata, and a globally unique identifier.

Object storage can be implemented at several levels, including the device (object-storage device), the system, and the interface level.

It is used to store photos on Facebook, songs on Spotify, and files in online collaboration services like Dropbox. It is used when scalable storage is required to handle very large volumes of data.

History/Origins of the technology

Garth Gibson and Howard Gobioff invented Network-Attached Secure Disks in 1995. The NASD team went on to be one of the creators of the Google File System. Gibson founded Panasas in 1999 to commercialize the NASD project’s concepts.

The Coda project at Carnegie Mellon, which began in 1987 and gave rise to the Lustre file system, is another example of related work. There’s also the UC Berkeley OceanStore project and the University of Tennessee Knoxville Logistical Networking project.

Seagate Technology was instrumental in the development of object storage. According to the Storage Networking Industry Association SNIA, “object storage originated in the late 1990s: Seagate specifications from 1999 introduced some of the first commands and how the operating system effectively removed from storage consumption.”

Preliminary version of the “OBJECT BASED STORAGE DEVICES Command Set Proposal” dated 10/25/1999 was submitted by Seagate. This paper was proposed to INCITS T-10 (International Committee for Information Technology Standards) with a goal to form a committee and design a specification based on the SCSI interface protocol.

Cloud Storage & Object Storage


As stated above Object Storage is extremely ideal for large scale storage needs where scalability is important. The technology is also useful for web applications where storage requirements are more complex which is particularly relevant for websites with user-generated content like videos, profiles and images.

Many cloud hosting providers/services also leverage Object Storage in order to provide fast scalable storage. This functionality is also available in many public clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud to name a few.

Industry Standards

There are 2 main industry standards for Object Storage devices which include the following:

OSD version 1

Objects are described by an extensible set of attributes. Some attributes, such as the number of bytes in an object and the modification time of an object, are implemented directly by the OSD. Higher-level storage systems that use OSD for persistent storage set other attributes on objects. Within an OSD, partitions are created and deleted.

Partitions and objects do not have predefined sizes. Hewlett-Packard created the OSD standard in 1987.

OSD version 2

“Object-Based Storage Devices – 2” (OSD-2) was the second generation of the SCSI command set, and it added support for snapshots, collections of objects, and improved error handling.

A snapshot is a copy of all the objects in a partition at a specific point in time into a new partition. The OSD can use copy-on-write techniques to implement a space-efficient copy so that the two partitions share objects that are unchanged between snapshots, or the OSD can physically copy the data to the new partition. The standard distinguishes between writable clones and read-only snapshots.


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Related links from our I.T Glossary:

IaaS (Infrastructure As A Service)

Cloud Computing

SSD (Solid State Drive)



Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, May 5). Object storage. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object_storage.