Object storage, relatively newer compared to file systems, has gained prominence in the last 10 to 15 years. Unlike databases, where the structure and filtering of data are paramount, object storage simplifies data storage by adopting a flat architecture. This means there's no concept of folders or hierarchies, which are typical in file systems.

What Are Objects?

When we talk about object storage, the term 'objects' often comes up. In the context of object storage, objects are essentially blobs (binary large objects). These objects can range from media files like images and videos to database backups. Unlike traditional file systems where files can be edited or updated, objects in object storage are immutable. Once an object is written, it cannot be modified, only read or deleted.

Object Storage vs Blob Storage

Before object storage became mainstream, there was blob storage. The term 'blob' stands for binary large object, which essentially refers to large chunks of data. In essence, objects in object storage are blobs, making the terms somewhat interchangeable.

Characteristics of Object Storage

Flat Architecture

As mentioned earlier, object storage employs a flat architecture, meaning there are no hierarchies or folders. This flat structure allows for easier scalability and quicker access to data.

Globally Unique Names

One of the unique characteristics of object storage, particularly popular services like AWS S3 or Google Cloud Storage, is the requirement for globally unique names. This ensures that there are no naming conflicts across different instances or users, emphasizing the flat nature of object storage.

Hash Map Analogy

A useful analogy to understand object storage is to compare it to a hash map. Each object has a unique key (name), akin to the keys in a hash map. This makes data retrieval fast and efficient, as you can directly access an object using its unique identifier.

Practical Use Cases

Storing Large Media Files

One of the most common use cases for object storage is storing large media files such as images, videos, and audio files. While it's technically possible to store these files in a traditional database, it's not always the most efficient or cost-effective solution. Retrieving large media files from a database can be slow and resource-intensive, whereas object storage offers a more streamlined approach.

Long-Term Storage

Object storage is also ideal for long-term storage of data that doesn't require frequent access or updates. Whether it's archived documents, backups, or logs, object storage provides a reliable and scalable solution for storing large volumes of data over extended periods.

System Design Considerations

From a system design perspective, object storage simplifies the architecture by providing a straightforward and efficient way to store large files. Whether you're designing a content delivery network, a media streaming platform, or an online backup service, object storage can be a valuable component in your infrastructure.

Interface and Accessibility

HTTP-Based Interface

One of the advantages of object storage is its accessibility via HTTP. Unlike databases where you need to write SQL queries or navigate complex file systems, interacting with object storage is as simple as making an HTTP request. This makes it easier to integrate object storage into web-based applications and services.

Security Considerations

While we won't delve into the nitty-gritty of security in this post, it's worth mentioning that object storage solutions like AWS S3 offer robust security features. You can configure access controls, encryption, and other security measures to protect your data, ensuring that only authorized users can access or modify it.


Object storage has carved out a unique niche in the data storage landscape, offering a simplified and efficient alternative to traditional file systems and databases. With its flat architecture, globally unique naming conventions, and HTTP-based interface, object storage is well-suited for storing large files and long-term data storage.

Whether you're a developer, a system architect, or an IT professional, understanding the characteristics and use cases of object storage can help you make informed decisions when designing and implementing data storage solutions. So the next time you're faced with a system design challenge involving large files or long-term storage, consider leveraging the power and flexibility of object storage to simplify your architecture and optimize performance.