Ideas EMC probably hates #96 - Seagate Kinetic drives

In storage one of the key fault lines we see is between vendors keen to ensure it’s their product that builds in the intelligence needed for storage or storage-related operations to take place.

I guess that’s not an earth-shattering observation. The basic functions storage are in a way quite mundane – data is stored on pretty dumb drives – so it’s the bells and whistles that count. The vendors usually call this “adding value”.

On the one hand array makers are keen to maintain its location in the controller, while one the other hand hypervisor sellers try to drag it into their software (eg, VMware and its various storage and backup-related APIs).

You can probably count the latter among, “ideas that EMC, NetApp etc wish didn’t really exist”. And there is another idea that Big Storage would probably like to see un-invented, which is Seagate’s Kinetic, a drive that cuts out the need for a storage array controller and associated hardware altogether.

It does this in Kinetic drives by building in the intelligence required for object storage data access to the drives themselves. Kinetic drives replace the storage controller as well as SAS, SATA controllers, RAID controllers etc with key value store capability that can scale to well in excess of the number of atoms in the universe.

In doing so they interface directly with object storage environments, including Ceph, OpenStack Swift and Scality. And all that is required is a JBOD enclosure with Ethernet connectivity to house Kinetic drives.

Sure, it’s an object storage technology – definitely very much a minority interest currently – and only really useful for large-scale relatively slow access use cases, but in such cases customers can potentially exploit it to drive out cost in capital outlay on storage array controller hardware as well as in operational costs for power and cooling.

But in future – as data volumes increase and the technology matures – object storage is likely to come of age and widen this fault line. Add to that the growing tendency of storage software and hardware to separate at the level of controller and the big storage incumbent array makers have a challenging few years ahead.