Unified storage usually refers to a storage system that can serve more than one protocol. In the past, when SAN (storage area network) was still widely used, the term referred to storage systems that did both: block and file storage.
Today, data in enterprises has shifted to file and object storage. Unified storage now refers to storage systems that make data accessible via multiple protocols. However, there are significant differences between each storage vendor's definition of what unified storage is. So what are the most important aspects of unified storage?
There is a wide range of protocols to access storage as a file system or object store. Many scale-out storage systems offer a native protocol for high-performance access in addition to the standard protocols. Some of these protocols are NFS Version 3 and 4, SMB Version 2 and 3, native protocols for parallel IO, object storage (S3), Hadoop (HDFS), and MPI-IO (in high-performance computing). A unified storage solution should offer several protocols to take advantage of more users and applications consolidated in a single storage system. Having more applications and users in a single storage system reduces management costs and leads to better resource utilization.
Systems with a single unified namespace allow you to access the same data via all the protocols, including object storage. This feature allows you to easily share data between users and applications using different protocols, significantly reducing the number of copies of data.
When talking about sharing data, access control becomes an important issue. If the access control is not unified, you have to configure permissions or access control lists for each interface, which is tedious and a potential security risk. Ideally, a unified storage system automatically translates the access control between interfaces to enforce the same access control regardless of how a file (or object) is accessed.
Quobyte's distributed file system allows you to consolidate all of your data onto a single platform enabling users to access the same file from any interface, thus providing the grand unified storage you need.