Kinetic Ethernet-Based Storage Platform

By Paul Rubens

"The key-value stores in Kinetic hard drives are a good fit for… distributed file systems (Hadoop Distributed File System, Lustre, GlusterFS) and distributed database (Cassandra) use cases, but will not be a complete replacement for existing enterprise NAS and SAN infrastructures," Henry Baltazar, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, believes.

To build a working Kinetic system you'll also need a chassis which can hold Kinetic drives and provide an Ethernet interface. Today you can buy a chassis from Supermicro or Sanmina to fill with 4TB Seagate Kinetic drives with dual 1Gbps Ethernet interfaces. In the near future Seagate will offer its own 5U, 84 bay chassis to host new 8TB Kinetic drives (for a total of 672TB/chassis). The new drives will have dual 1 or 2.5 Gbps Ethernet connectivity.

Burks expects to see the development of Kinetic solid state drives (SSDs.) Initially these will probably be used to hold object storage metadata to increase performance by making it possible to find object "payloads" faster. Eventually Burks expects a higher-performance tier of object storage to emerge that is fulfilled by a tier of Kinetic SSDs.

Toshiba has already announced Kinetic-compatible drives. These include an 8TB shingled magnetic recording (SMR) Ethernet drive and a hybrid Ethernet drive with spinning and solid state storage. This drive runs its own Linux kernel, which can be used to cache metadata on the solid state storage of the drive. HGST has also announced Ethernet drives.

Will the Kinetic platform take off and become widely deployed? It's impossible to say for sure, but the establishment of a Linux Foundation open source collaborative project certainly makes it more likely, according to Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "The formation of the Kinetic Open Source Project is really quite significant," he says. "Seagate could try and go it alone with Kinetic but then it would be difficult for companies to adopt. They don't want a platform to be too vendor specific: they want standards and not to be beholden to a single vendor."

One of the reasons that the push towards this type of storage architecture is coming from disk vendors rather than more general storage systems vendors is that it provides a way for hard disk drives to become less commoditized items which are supplied at very low cost.

"Everyone wants to grab margin, and these Ethernet drives will cost more," says Peters. "Some of this margin will go to the vendor, so this can be seen as an attempt (by the disk vendors) to increase their margins. Western Digital/HGST, Seagate and Toshiba are all beginning to wrap more functionality into their offerings, so what we are seeing is the disk vendors staking a claim in more of the storage stack, and becoming less of a commodity."

More generally, Peters believes the Kinetic storage architecture may succeed because companies are interested in software-defined storage — however you choose to define it. He says around 90 percent of organizations are either involved in or interested in software-defined storage today.

"Kinetic allows you to avoid the controller layer by moving software somewhere else — which is what people are interested in," he says.

"The most obvious way is to sell software which runs with heterogeneous hardware (like DataCore, Hedvig and IBM.) But Kinetic is a parallel effort. It doesn't provide storage functionality, but it makes software-defined storage easier and cheaper.

"And those," he concludes, "are the key reasons that people are moving to software-defined storage. Ease and cheapness."

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

This article was originally published on September 24, 2015

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