Seagate's serverless storage

Seagate formally announced their new Kinetic disk drive, Ethernet-connected object storage for the cloud. While the technology is great, the market implications are greater. Here's why.

Seagate's new Kinetic drives sport a radically stripped-down architecture that includes:

  • A new API and associated libraries.
  • An Ethernet backbone.
  • New drives with an Ethernet interface — not SCSI, SAS or SATA — that implements a key/value store interface — gets, puts, deletes — and handles block management internally.

While these drives won't magically self-assemble into a storage system, they dramatically reduce the server load needed for massive web-scale storage. The drive's microcontroller takes on much of the load normally handled by a server and, indeed, a single drive can be accessed directly by an app through the Amazon S3-like interface.

Object storage vendors Basho (Riak CS), Scality (RING) and SwiftStack (Swift) have publicly stated that they are working with Seagate’s Kinetic Open Storage platform. You can bet that Google, Amazon and Azure are working with them too.

The Storage Bits take

Today’s scale-out infrastructures are object-based, but their legacy kit has many layers and inefficiencies. Servers are laden with a filesystem, volume manager, drivers, RAID controller and cache.

RAID controllers were added to the storage hierarchy because they increased storage bandwidth, IOPS, capacity and resilience. But until RAID the secular trend was putting more intelligence in drives.

After a 25-year hiatus, Seagate resurrects that trend. Getting RAID controllers out of the stack reduces latency and eliminates a major cost and bug pool — a Very Good Thing.

Kinetic is another example of the storage market's new reality: The needs of a very few web-scale customers — not consumers or enterprises — are driving new product development. Shingled magnetic recording drives and high-capacity optical are two more examples.

Eventually this technology will filter down to the enterprise and maybe even consumers. It is another motivator for innovation in an industry that we all depend on for our digital civilization.

Comments welcome, of course. I'm looking to have more insight into Kinetic from Seagate in the next week or so. Stay tuned.