October 29, 2013, 12:00 AM — Building your own storage area network (SAN) involves many layers, not the least of which is the server layer communicating with the storage devices. Seagate has recently announced a new storage architecture called Kinetic that builds server-like functionality and ethernet right on the drive itself.
Your standard storage setup usually has the following components:
There are multiple levels of connectivity (and a variety of connection types) required to reach the actual storage devices.
Today, most SAN installations rely on block-level storage rather than file level storage which allows for abstraction of the greater pool of physical disks into separate logical disks (among other benefits). To map and control the block-level storage, a server based operating system is required in order to communicate with the actual storage devices, hence the storage server.
With Seagate’s new Kinetic architecture, the company aims to remove that storage server layer from the stack, simplifying the components.
The new architecture would build Gigabit Ethernet, along with a programming API and key-value logic system, directly on the drive itself. This means that you’ll be able to configure a storage network, provision, access, manage, and expand it all without the need for a dedicated storage server.
Don’t go dumping your storage server just yet however. Initially, all disk actions will be via the Kinetic Storage API. That means that you’ll need a management system capable of communicating with the drives to get them up and running. At the moment, the available options are Swift and Riak CS. And that brings up another interesting comparison. These drives are essentially acting as a scalable key-value storage platform - the foundation of a distributed database (such as Riak). Seagate is making the claim that, using an array of Kinetic drives, your application layer can read / write / delete directly to the storage blocks itself over Ethernet.
While a scenario that would warrant such a design escapes me, the potential for new platforms to be built on top of this concept is vast. With traction, I could see distributed databases being built on top of a Kinetic array, communicating directly with the storage layer from the database engine. It would be an interesting option for a Riak install, giving small to mid-sized IT operations a cloud grade disk infrastructure.