Can an object storage system act as primary storage? The common assumption is that primary storage is the fastest storage you can get to support important applications, such as online transaction systems where response time is critical and object storage is too slow.
Object storage vendor MinIO thinks otherwise: that MinIO is primary storage.
CMO Jonathan Symonds argued for this extraordinary claim in a blog post. He started by broadening the definition of primary storage. “It seems to some that primary storage equates to workloads running on SAN or NAS. Needless to say, that’s a ridiculous definition. … The fact is that the definition of primary storage is the data store your application runs on. That means your database, your AI/ML pipeline, your advanced analytics application. It also means your video streaming platform or your website.”
He states that “In the public cloud, object storage is almost always primary storage. AWS EMR, Redshift, Databricks, Snowflake, BigQuery all run on object storage and have been since day 1. That makes object storage the primary storage for those workloads (and thousands more) .”
But Symonds conveniently forgets that AWS also has its Elastic Block Store (EBS) “for data that needs to be quickly accessible… EBS volumes are particularly suitable for use as primary storage for file systems, databases, or for any applications that require fine detailed updates and updates.” access to raw, unformatted block-level storage.” AWS also supports primary file control with cloud native FSx for ONTAP.
AWS doesn’t specifically define S3 object storage as primary storage, but does say, “Amazon S3 offers a range of storage classes designed for different use cases. For example, you can store business-critical production data in S3 Standard for frequent access” – supporting Symonds’ view.
But then he confuses things even more and claims that AWS S3 is priced as primary storage. “Object has ALWAYS been the primary storage in the public cloud and still is today. The cloud providers provide this with a rate of 13x and block for 4.6x the object costs.” But that means primary storage is the first choice because it’s cheap — not because it outperforms block or file storage.
Symonds then says that VMware sees object storage as primary storage. “When VMware announced Tanzu, did they have SAN/NAS vendors in the announcement? New. It was all object storage. Did they expect Tanzu to only deal with “secondary” storage? Of course not. Do they understand the business better than anyone else? You can make a strong argument for that. VMware sees object storage as primary storage.”
Let’s remind ourselves that Tanzu also includes vSAN – VMware’s block storage – and Tanzu’s object storage is MinIO. Symonds is hardly a disinterested observer here.
He sums up his argument by stating, “The same goes for RedHat OpenShift, HPE Ezmeral, SUSE Rancher. Each of them sees object storage as primary storage. That’s not to say they don’t see SAN/NAS as primary storage too – they do.” , they just recognize that those technologies are legacy when it comes to the cloud, they all recognize that the future… wait for it… is primarily object storage.”
So SAN and NAS are dead and objects are the future, says an object storage provider with fast software that also ignores AWS block (EBS) and file (FSX for ONTAP). Until AWS stops supporting EBS and FSx for ONTAP, or promotes S3 about it, we cannot say that object storage is AWS’s primary storage. Not in the way that database and other applications that use both block and file storage define primary storage.