Block storage is a form of cloud storage that is used to store data, often on storage area networks (SANs). Data is stored in blocks, with each block stored separately based on the efficiency needs of the SAN. Each block is assigned a unique address, which is then used by a management application controlled by the server's operating system to retrieve and compile data into files upon request. Block storage offers efficiency due to the way blocks can be distributed across multiple systems and even configured to work with different operating systems.
Block storage also offers an impressive level of flexibility because it can be accessed by different operating systems as mounted drive volumes and has the ability to use operating system–specific file systems (such as the New Technology File System (NTFS) for Windows and Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) for VMware). This makes using block storage quite similar to storing data on a hard drive within a server, except the data is stored in a remote location rather than on local hardware.
A block is a fixed-size amount of memory within storage media that’s capable of storing a piece of data. The size of each block is determined by the management system. The block size is generally too small to fit an entire piece of data, and so the data for any particular file is broken up into numerous blocks for storage. Each block is given a unique identifier without any higher-level metadata; details such as data format, type, and ownership are not noted.
The operating system allocates and distributes blocks across the storage network to balance efficiency and functionality. When a file is requested, the management application uses addresses to identify the necessary blocks and then compiles them into the complete file for use.
By enabling storage across multiple environments, block storage separates data from the limitations of individual user environments. As a result, data can be retrieved through any number of paths to maximize efficiency, with high input/output operations per second (IOPS). The result is an approach that offers a higher level of efficiency than other cloud storage methods, making it ideal for high-performance applications or applications that require constant writing and retrieval.
Block storage is a common and popular cloud storage choice because of its numerous benefits.
Like any technology platform, block storage comes with limitations despite its numerous benefits.
As with object storage and other types of cloud storage, block storage works best in specific circumstances based on user needs and given parameters. The following are just several of many effective block storage use cases:
Block storage continues to be an efficient and flexible cloud storage option for enterprises require high-performance workloads or need to manage large files. Learn more about how Oracle delivers block storage solutions with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.