Seagate Kinetic: Connects Drives To Ethernet For Low-Cost Storage

Supermicro's Kinetic-ready storage solution

Seagate's system builder partners are preparing low-cost storage arrays in anticipation for the vendor's pending release of its Kinetic hard drives which allow direct connection to Ethernet as a way to reduce the cost of object storage.

The new Seagate Kinetic hard drives, which for now are only available through custom system builders and storage OEMs, are aimed at the scale-out object storage market, said Ali Fenn, senior director of advanced storage in Seagate's cloud solutions and services business.

"The type of data being created as part of the data explosion, and the data with value as it's stored over time, is object data," Fenn told CRN. "Now is the time to look at new ways to store object data."

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That is exactly what Seagate did with the Seagate Kinetic hard drives.

The Seagate Kinetic drives look like traditional hard drives, but have two primary differences, Fenn said.

The first is the key value interface, an API designed by Seagate. The key value interface, which was released by Seagate via the Seagate Kinetic Open Storage platform as an active open-source project, adds Ethernet connectivity to object storage.

"This is a fundamental change," Fenn said. "It is the only way the industry can afford to look at the increasing amount of object storage."

The second is the two Ethernet ports on the Seagate Kinetic drive in place of the SAS or SATA ports found in traditional drives.

"Ethernet is connected directly to the drives," she said. "There's no need for SAS. So now a storage chassis becomes an Ethernet chassis. With SAS, you have two-tier storage systems. With Ethernet, it becomes a single-tier system that allows Ethernet to talk directly to the drive."

Several systems builders already have solutions being tested by customers, including Supermicro, Sanmina, Synnex's Hyve and Germany-based Rausch, Fenn said. Hewlett-Packard, Dell and open compute system vendor Wiwynn have said they will offer Seagate Kinetic-based systems but have not yet done so, she said.

Multiple software vendors are also supporting Seagate Kinetic including SwiftStack, which implements Seagate Kinetic in the open source Swift solution; Red Hat's Inktank, which implements it in the open source Ceph solution; object storage software developer Scality; Basho, which develops distributed database management software for object storage; virtual machine storage router developer Open vStorage; and developers of the Hadoop File System for big data.

NEXT: How System Builders See Seagate Kinetic

Supermicro is currently shipping one system designed for Seagate Kinetic hard drives to beta customers, with full production awaiting Seagate's general availability of the drives, likely in December, said Paul McLeod, senior product manager for the system builder.

The Supermicro solution is a 1U, 12-bay chassis with dual Ethernet switches. The chassis has four 10-Gbit Ethernet external ports, as well as two Gbit Ethernet ports connected internally to each Seagate Kinetic drive, McLeod told CRN. The switches also connect to the drives to get drive status such as temperature and worldwide name, he said.

The Supermicro solution comes populated with 12 4-TB drives for a total raw capacity of 48 TBs, McLeod said.

"We project these solutions will mainly go to startups and to companies looking at building new architectures," he said. "We feel it's an effective solution for starting implementations and for growth. Our focus will be on the cloud provider market. With Seagate Kinetic, you need to write your own interface. It's not just plug-and-go."

Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer Systems, a Minneapolis-based system builder, told CRN that technologies like Seagate Kinetic hard drives, like the development of software-defined architectures, is part of an overall move to disaggregate the data center.

"The old rules are going out the window," Swank said. "Seagate Kinetic is another step in that direction."

Seagate Kinetic is still very new, and Equus is working with Seagate on how to implement it, Swank said. "It takes time to look at the best ways to take advantage of new technologies like this," he said.