Seagate’s Kinetic Drives reduce Object Storage costs – now GA

After a one-year incubation, Seagate’s Kinetic Open Storage Platform is now generally available. It features disk drives that communicate with applications over Ethernet, using a key-value architecture and RESTful APIs, instead of traditional protocols like SCSI or SATA. What’s different about this approach is it lets the disk drive ‘talk’ the same language that object storage systems do. This briefing note will explain the potential benefits of this technology and how it’s being adopted in the industry.

How Kinetic Technology works

Object storage systems are typically comprised of server-class chassis filled with disk drives, clustered in a scale-out topology. But each module or node is essentially a server. By eliminating the translation between file system semantics based on folder hierarchy, and storage protocols, while leveraging the trend towards application API interfaces, object storage systems manufacturers can flatten the storage stack. Eliminating this software layer allows them to remove or simplify the server hardware used in their scale-out systems.

These systems use a key-value architecture that abstracts the metadata (values) with Object ID numbers (keys) and enables devices, like Seagate’s Kinetic drives, to assume responsibility for space management in the device, while minimizing associated storage management overhead. The embedded server can be replaced with a simple drive shelf eliminating the need for CPU power and its expense. This new chassis can then support more disk drives, increasing capacity, reducing complexity and improving storage TCO.

Lower Cost

Seagate estimates that Kinetic drive technology can decrease costs by 40% over existing scale-out system architectures due to reductions in hardware cost, power, cooling and less management overhead. Again, this savings is due to storage system changes enabled by Kinetic drives, not the advantages of scale-out object storage over legacy technologies. From a CAPEX perspective, hardware is less expensive when you remove the server portion and fill a relatively dumb the chassis (JBOD) with disk drives. On the OPEX side, fewer servers means less power, cooling and administration, and greater storage density means less data center real estate.

Object storage still too expensive

While object storage may become the technology of choice for handling the explosion of unstructured data, these architectures still fall short, according to Seagate. Or at a minimum, more can be done to improve their economics. Results the company shared recently show the gap between projected data and available storage capacity is expected to reach 6.5 million-petabytes (6.5 zettabytes) in the next 5 years. Covering this gap will add well over $200B to industry IT expenses, according to these data. Obviously, there’s a need to reduce storage costs and scale the capacity of current infrastructures, a challenge that the company has identified for this technology.

Paradigm shift

Seagate’s Kinetic Open Storage Platform is driving a paradigm shift in system design as scale-out storage modules no longer need to include server hardware. This disaggregation of storage from compute hardware is catching on as object storage vendors, systems builders, open source players and large end users are adopting this technology.

Seagate announced that Scality and SwiftStack will release products that support Kinetic drives in conjunction with their move to general availability. And system builders Newisys, Hyve, Supermicro and Rausch are offering systems with Kinetic-based solutions to their OEM customers as well. This technology is also well embedded in the open source community with the API and libraries available under the LGPL, and active collaboration and  contribution happening in the Openstack, Hadoop and Open Compute Project communities.

StorageSwiss Take

Seagate is excited about Kinetic’s prospects, and we share that enthusiasm. But this is a complex topic and the journey is just beginning. While object storage continues to ‘get a lot of ink’, it’s still not well understood by many people, and the concept of disk drives communicating directly with applications is even more abstract. The good news is that although this is a complex technology, its effect is one of simplification. Integrating Kinetic drives into an object storage system can make it easier to design, build and maintain, and make it cost less.

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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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