After months of hard work here at atmail, we’re excited to announce that last Friday we released our new atmail object storage plugin called store(obj) obj.store(), which is based on Dovecot open-source.
“What is object storage? And how can it help me?”, you ask.
Great questions. Let’s walk through it…
What is object storage?
Object storage is an alternative to block storage or traditional file system storage, with high scaling, availability and low cost as its key focus points. It brings simplification of current file system storage from a directory structure of traditional FS to a flat list of ‘buckets’, that store information using unique IDs rather than filenames.
This means for each piece of data stored, the amount of overhead data (metadata) required is significantly lower than traditional. Object storage systems store this metadata with the object itself, which makes it very easy to scale. High availability is provided by replicating the objects across many geo-locations and disk drives.
Our atmail store(obj) is a plugin for atmail mail server, which is based on Dovecot open-source and works like this:
Why is object storage a good thing?
Object storage is a very good thing for large organisations because it reduces your exposure to the inherent risks of storing your own data. Its high availability and redundancy give protections that traditional filesystems require as an extra layer. This keeps costs down. And who doesn’t want to keep costs down?
If you need a quick checklist on the pros of object storage, it would read something like this:
- Lower your total cost of ownership
- If you’re sending large attachments off to be stored in the cloud, you’ll need less of your expensive, traditional disks and you can still control your data within the cloud environment
- Decrease your risk
- If you’re wanting to lower the risk profile of storing everything in-house, you can do this through the increased data redundancy that the cloud provides
- Storage management
- If you’re looking to improve your current systems, you can optimise your email storage infrastructure (for example, instead of storing every single email attachment on site, you can move older mail attachments to the cloud, but still access those attachments whenever you need to)
What are the cost savings with object storage?
Here is an example of the bottom line savings that could apply with atmail’s object storage plugin, obj.store():
Is object storage new?
No. It has been in development for a long time. The rise in its popularity has been spearheaded by Amazon S3. It is so popular now as a term, it squarely sits inside the ‘pull’ marketing type where administrators often demand object storage integration. It’s certainly a hot topic right now.
Who came up with the concept of object storage?
Whilst object storage might have only gathered some serious steam in the last few years, the origins of object storage can be credited back to research on Network Attached Secure Disks led by Garth Gibson in 1995. That was the research that first promoted the concept of splitting less common operations (such as namespace manipulations), from common operations (such as read and writes), to optimise the performance and scale of both. Source
From 1999 to 2013, at least $300 million of venture financing was related to object storage. Given that this amount doesn’t include the large sums invested by large global players such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Red Hat, OpenStack and more, it definitely indicates that object storage is a rising force. Source
What are the differences between object storage offerings?
Different product offerings offer differences in size, performance, access methods, geographic location and security/privacy compliance. But the main differentiator comes down to just slight differences in implementation.
Being a plugin for Dovecot open-source, atmail’s obj.store() plugin allows you to use technology that you already know – and it also supports multiple cloud storage and cluster filesystem vendors.
What are some benefits of atmail’s object storage plugin?
- Support for various cloud storage or cluster filesystem vendors – starting with AWS S3 and soon to support Ceph, OpenIO, Backblaze and Scality
- De-duplication support
- A 1 MB PDF attachment sent to 10 local users, traditionally stored ten times (once for each recipient) on local disk, is stored once with atmail store(obj)
- Compression support
- Each de-duplicated attachment can be compressed before storing it on any of the supported cloud storage services and platforms
- Cache support for bandwidth optimisation
- MIME attachments that are fetched from the cloud storage are cached locally (REDIS and local Filesystem) to ensure a responsive user experience
- Flexible administration
- Your administrator can choose which attachments will be uploaded to cloud storage based on multiple parameters (such as the date the email was received, the size of the attachment or various email attributes)
- Use one command line to interact with multiple cloud storage providers
How long does it take to set up atmail’s object storage plugin?
It’s a very quick process. If you don’t yet have an account with a S3 compatible provider, simply visit a provider and set up an account with your email and details. Your buckets are then just a few clicks away from being created and usable.
Want more information?
For more information about atmail’s object storage plugin – previously called store(obj) and now called obj.store() – click here.
Note: We changed the name of our product from after launch.
Feel free to shoot us a question at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d love to help!