Seagate’s CSS offers a White box with a Logo

At the Next-Gen Storage Summit, Storage Switzerland had a chance to talk with Seagate’s Cloud Systems and Solutions (CSS) group, a new division that came out of their acquisitions of disk array manufacturer Xyratex and eVault, the cloud backup provider. The company spoke about how Seagate’s traditional customer base is changing and how CSS is positioned to address that change by developing systems hardware for OEMs, cloud providers and systems integrators.

The infrastructure of today and tomorrow looks very different than it did in the past. What used to be a proprietary stack of vertically integrated components supporting a single business unit is becoming a standardized, disaggregated pool of resources that are dynamically provisioned for a specific set of workloads, and then reconfigured for the next set. An example of this is the current software-defined storage process that we discuss in this article.

Seagate has historically supported the vendors who manufactured these proprietary stacks of hardware, but now sees this ecosystem changing. Where their large OEMs used to buy drives for proprietary storage systems, several different types of customers are emerging and looking for more than just disk drives, so CSS have come out with a line of storage systems hardware called OneStor.

The appeal of commodity hardware

Manufacturing evolution has prompted the move towards commodity hardware. Large cloud service providers and others in the ‘hyperscale’ market are designing and building their own storage infrastructures using low-cost hardware platforms. New companies with cutting-edge technologies, like software-defined storage and converged architectures, are also using this common hardware design approach to shorten their development cycles and minimize product costs.

But this ‘white box’ approach has a downside. Do-it-yourself hardware design can also mean do-it-yourself support so Seagate has come out with a line of low-cost storage system hardware for this market.

A white box with a logo

OneStor is an embedded storage platform that includes one or two controller modules with up to 84 disk drives, a 12Gb/s SAS architecture and a common platform management software. OEMs can load these boxes with their value-added software and go to market, leveraging Seagate’s validated architectures to simplify the engineering process. Cloud providers that have historically bought generic white box hardware can use the OneStor platform as well.

One big difference is support. Seagate offers the support options that companies come to expect from tier-one manufacturers, like warranties customer service portals, RMAs, complete documentation, developer support, etc. They also have a complete product line, not just a box or two and product roadmap that customers can plan around.

StorageSwiss Take

The white box approach is appealing to large provider end users as well as OEMs and resellers. But what’s less appealing is the white box support situation, or lack thereof. What the market needs is commodity hardware with non-commodity support, and a roadmap a company can count on to keep engineering costs down in the future. They’re looking for a white box solution with a logo and a tier-one supplier like Seagate with a solution like OneStor seems to fit the bill.

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Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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