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08.24.2015 - Is it a Storage System? Is it a Database? The ongoing blurring of boundaries within enterprises

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What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a storage system? Well, rotating disks! Storage has been traditionally consumed either in the form of block storage or as files. Irrespective of the consumption model, data gets persisted/retrieved on physical disks or Flash using protocols (such as Small Computer System Interface (‘SCSI’), or NVM Express (‘NVMe’) that have been standardized over decades. Traditionally, the role of the storage system has been lowest in the food chain, with very little visibility or understanding of the data contents. Instead of talking to the storage system in terms of “Retrieve record X,” we talk to it as “Retrieve block address Y.” File systems provide an incremental layer of abstraction in the form of “Retrieve file Z created by Alice”. File-related metadata and extended attributes provide limited visibility into data, and aid data search based on key-value metadata attributes. Database systems have existed since the 1960’s. Most people remember databases as data organized in a relational model with ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) read/write properties. A database in some sense can be considered as a specialized storage system that can persist, retrieve, and analyze data records. Enterprise data was broadly [...]

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