Spectra Logic BlackPearl Brings Unified Object Storage to Enterprises

By Frank Ohlhorst

Object storage has become the mantra for those looking to leverage everything the cloud has to offer, at least when it comes to storing and accessing data sets.

However, many CIOs and IT managers associate Object storage with just cloud-based applications and are sticking to block-level or file storage for their enterprise systems. This is a practice that will prove to be outdated and detrimental to efficient operations as time goes on.

Arguably, object storage is the wave of the future and adoption of object storage- based platforms will grow exponentially. After all, the ideology behind object-based paradigms has proven itself time and time again, thanks to uses such as application development, where object orientation has become the norm. What’s more, object-based storage offers several advantages that can benefit enterprises both large and small. Those benefits include:

*Scale: An object-based architecture allows the file storage infrastructure to expand without encountering the typical file system limits.

*Cost: An object-based architecture leverages economies of scale and proves to be one of the most economical methods to expand storage into the petabyte range.

* Speed: Object-based architectures are optimized for speed, and total storage space consumed does not impact overall system or data access performance

* Redundancy: Object-based storage accomplishes redundancy and high availability by storing copies of the same object on multiple nodes. An object is created on one node and subsequently copied to one or more additional nodes.

* Protocol support: Object-based storage is accessed using the Representational State Transfer (REST) API over HTTP. Commands sent over HTTP to object storage prove to be very simple. They include “put” to create an object, “get” to read an object, “delete” to purge an object and “list” to see a directory of objects.

* Globally unique identifiers: Object-based storage assigns identifiers to storage objects, making them accessible without having to know the physical location of the data. This allows objects to be distributed across multiple locations and systems.

Yet, the road to an object 0storage-based solution is littered with complexity, jargon and some confusion.

Spectra Logic is aiming to remove those roadblocks and demonstrate how object-based storage can bring greater efficiency to the modern enterprise. The company is striving to achieve that lofty goal with its latest release of BlackPearl, which is now in version 3.

BlackPearl V3 is a collection of tools and applications that run on a storage appliance to bring unified management to enterprises that want to implement object storage. From the outset, the BlackPearl platform was designed to bring simplicity and ease of use to what was once considered an overly complex and difficult to manage storage paradigm.

A Closer Look at BlackPearl V3

The BlackPearl Appliance sits in front of Spectra Logic’s tape and disk storage libraries and transforms those storage targets into Amazon S3 compliant storage archives, with the ultimate goal of making object storage second nature in the enterprise.

It’s important to note that S3 compatibility brings with it new methods to access data via Web services, such as REST and Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), allowing object storage to power countless distributed applications and also vastly simplifying critical storage concerns, such as backup and data resiliency.

That said, the name of the game with S3 is cross-platform compatibility, combined with performance enhancing technology, which shares a common access paradigm. To take advantage of those elements, BlackPearl incorporates both an SDK and an API to make cross-platform integrations much simpler, while also providing the foundation to deliver cloud, hybrid, and onsite stored data to the applications and users without undue complexity.

Hands on with BlackPearl:

I tested the BlackPearl platform at Spectra Logic’s Lab in Boulder, Colo. using a highly configured system with access to petabytes of storage in both disk and tape form.

From a design standpoint, BlackPearl sits in front of Spectra Logic’s storage systems, such as the company’s robotic tape libraries, ArticBlue Disk storage systems and the Verde File Storage System appliance.

In essence, BlackPearl V3 brings S3 compatible object storage provisioning and management to both disk and tape libraries by providing a layer of abstraction that embraces HTTP style requests.

The benefits of object-based storage are often obscured by the complexity that is often found in many systems. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of BlackPearl V3 is the ease it brings to managing object-based storage.

For example, BlackPearl V3 uses a browser- based console, which presents information using a dashboard ideology. At a glance, a storage administrator can determine the status of the multiple pieces that make up an object-based storage platform. That ease of use is extended to the initial and daily management and maintenance tasks associated with petabytes of data.

For those new to S3- based storage ideologies, one term that comes up quite frequently is a “bucket”, which is used to simply define a container that holds objects. Spectra has gone to great lengths to simplify the concept of a bucket by providing wizard-driven tools that make it easy to define and manage buckets. The buckets become an easy to understand element.

Administrators can quickly create buckets, assign policies to buckets, as well as “place” those buckets on physical hardware. Yet buckets are not necessarily static in nature. Buckets can be moved with ease across storage domains and modified on the fly to access additional storage pools. All of which is very easily accomplished using the browser-based management console.

Although buckets act as the user-facing object container, users can access what is within those buckets using traditional data access definitions of files and folders. This insulates users from any unnecessary complexity. Administrators on the other hand can deal with buckets using administrative tools to assign policies, ACLs (Access Control Lists), Storage Domains, Storage Pools and so forth, giving administrators the flexibility to grow buckets as needed or shift buckets to other storage resources.

Policies are a critical element for managing object-based storage. Here, BlackPearl provides an extensive policy management console, which makes it very simple to define policies. Policies can drive events such as moving objects to tape, creating duplicate objects, moving objects to online disk systems and many other storage-related chores that were once done manually.

The management console also gives administrators the ability to define storage domains and storage pools. A storage domain functions similar as a Web domain. It is the top level target for accessing data. Storage pools are created under storage domains and represent the physical target for the data contained in objects. Both prove very easy to create, manage and assign to whatever storage use case an enterprise desires to use.

Spectra’s BlackPearl V3 solves many of the problems associated with object-based storage and helps to further blur the lines between cloud, hybrid cloud and private cloud, giving storage administrators the flexibility to work with data sets where it makes the most sense from an operational level.

The ease of use provided by BlackPearl V3 also enables storage administrators to concentrate on architecture and the protection of data, while not being bogged down with the complexities normally associated object-level implementations.

All things considered, BlackPearl V3 provides a viable path to reach object-based storage efficiencies, without introducing any unnecessary complexities the need to resolve unexpected technological road blocks. The use of the RESTful API further enhances the product’s compatibility, allowing developers to create custom interfaces to bring object-based storage to applications and other projects.


This article appeared first at eweek.com  on 02/22/2016 and was reposted by Your Daily Tech with permission by the author.