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What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

File storage and block storage are two of the most common, and popular, ways to store and access data in on-premises, virtual, and cloud servers. Both storage types have their pros and cons and are therefore best suited for different requirements, projects, and use-cases.

In this section, we’ll share what file storage and block storage are and how they differ from one another so that you can choose the one that’s best suited for your needs.

What is Block Level Storage?

Block level storage, or block storage, is storage used for structured data and is commonly deployed in Storage Area Network (SAN) systems. It uses Internet Small Computer Systems Interface (iSCSI) and Fibre Channel (FC) protocols.

Block Storage Architecture

Block storage uses blocks, which are a set sequence of bytes, to store structured workloads. Each block is assigned a unique hash value which functions as an address. In block storage, the data is stored without any metadata e.g. data format, type, ownership, etc.

The ability to store data in blocks delivers structured workloads such as databases, applications, etc. the freedom to decide how blocks are accessed, combined, or modified. Consequently, this makes block storage faster than other storage.

Cost of Block Storage

As block storage is built to facilitate larger workloads and enhance Input/Output Operations per Second (IOPS), they tend to be more expensive than file storage systems. However, this greatly depends on the chosen vendor, specifications, features, cost of the storage operating system (OS), and several other variables.

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Scalability of Block Storage

Block storage appliances can scale up; which means that you can choose to start with only a few terabytes of storage capacity and increase it to petabyte-scale as you go. Performance however, can be challenging to upgrade. Typical block storage systems, or SAN systems, do not facilitate performance increase and in order to add more performance, the go-to solution is a forklift upgrade.

However, with StoneFly Voyager SAN systems, you can not only add thousands of storage drives (with expansion arrays) but also increase performance by adding more storage controllers. 

Use-Cases of Block Storage

Block level storage systems are commonly used as:

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Email servers with applications such as Microsoft Exchange.

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?
Storage for industry standard hypervisors such as VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, KVM, Citrix (formerly XenServer).
What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?
Storage for structured workloads such as Oracle, MySQL, NoSQL databases, and applications like SAP, etc.
What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Storage for RAID volumes – fit for fault-tolerance, enhancing performance, and ensuring high availability (HA).

What is File Level Storage?

File level storage, or file storage, is storage used for unstructured data and is commonly deployed in Network Attached Storage (NAS) systems. It uses Network File System (NFS) for Linux, and Common Internet File System (CIFS) or Server Message Block (SMB) protocols for Windows.

File Storage Architecture

File storage, as opposed to block storage, stores data in a hierarchical architecture; as such that the data and its metadata are stored as is – in the form of files and folders. Consequently, the stored data appears in a similar fashion to both systems; the one writing it and the one reading it.

Cost of File Storage System(s)

In terms of cost, file storage systems are typically less costly than block storage. However, this greatly depends on the chosen vendor, specifications, features, cost of the storage operating system (OS), and several other variables.

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?
What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Furthermore, file storage is dually scalable; which means it can scale up and scale out.

Scalability of File Level Storage

Furthermore, file storage is dually scalable; which means it can scale up and scale out.

Scale up, as with block storage, is simply the expansion of file storage capacity. This can be done by connecting external storage arrays to on-premises file systems or by adding more storage resources to the virtual or cloud file storage.

Scale out is the ability to increase performance and storage capacity simultaneously by the addition of more file storage nodes. As each file storage node has integrated processor and storage drives, by adding more to the system the total processing capability and storage capacity increases in multiples.

For example, if a file storage system has one node then by adding another, the performance will increase to 2x and the storage capacity will also increase proportionally. Similarly, if another node is added, the performance and storage will increase to 3x; and so on.

Use-Cases of File Storage

File storage systems are commonly used as:

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Shared storage location for multiple user groups, departments, and teams, accessible via local area network (LAN); typically configured with a single global namespace stretching across multiple scale out nodes.

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Local storage systems for data archiving, retention, and compliance.

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Target storage for databases (Oracle, MySQL, etc.), applications (SAP HANA, etc.), physical and virtual servers, backup software (Veeam, Commvault, Veritas, etc.), etc.

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Hybrid storage systems with on-premises file storage for hot tier (0 tier) data and cloud file storage for cold and archival data.

StoneFly Solutions with File Storage

All StoneFly on-premises, cloud, and virtual storage solutions support file storage.

The following StoneFly solutions are purpose-built for file storage:

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

StoneFly Super Scale Out (SSO) NASOn-premises file storage systems.

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

StoneFly cloud storage in AzureAWS and StoneFly private cloud.

All StoneFly file storage systems are powered by StoneFly’s patented 8th generation NAS OS: StoneFusion; and Storage Concentrator Virtual Machine (SCVM) for virtual file storage.

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Block Level Storage & File Level Storage

If you’re looking to store structured and unstructured data, then you can opt for unified storage solutions that combine block and file storage in a single appliance – delivering the best of both worlds.

One such example of unified block and file storage is StoneFly’s Unified Scale Out (USO).

Other StoneFly solutions, such as the USS, DR365V, and more, support file storage as an optional upgrade. For more information, visit the respective page of the solution or contact StoneFly pre-sales engineers by filling out the form at the bottom.

What is File Level Storage vs. Block Level Storage?

Advantages of Unified block and file storage

Following are some of the advantages of choosing a unified block and file storage, as opposed to dedicated file or block storage:

One solution for both structured and unstructured data simplifies management and optimizes processes.

Combine the scalability and affordability of file storage with the performance capabilities of block storage systems

Build hybrid storage that supports block and file storage and facilitates integration with desired cloud repositories such as Azure, AWS, other S3 clouds, or StoneFly private cloud.

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