A candid assessment of the nature and direction of data reveals that more than 50 percent of it will move to the cloud by 2016. This likely comes as no surprise to those with even a casual interest in the IT market. Additionally, the emerging data paradigms have centered on unstructured data. That is, instead of the traditional, relational database practice of data being broken down into rows and columns for transactions, data has become predominantly object-based—compiled and stored in large logical blocks including documents and multimedia files. The open source community took note of this years ago, and continues to empower enterprises with the advantages and economy of this object-based, unstructured approach.

Seagate, one of the primary storage hardware vendors, has been offering a solution to take on the complexities and challenges from these shifts in the market by way of their Kinetic Open Storage initiative. Recognizing the migration to unstructured data, Seagate devoted its energies to facilitating software-defined, object-based storage prepared for these massive increases in volume and distribution of data. Direct communications between object storage applications and storage media interfacing through an Ethernet fabric enables full disaggregation of storage from compute. The Kinetic Open Storage platform promises improvements on issues associated with legacy file storage solutions and superior economics.


The hardware at the core of this push in storage technology is the “key-value Ethernet drive”, “key” representing the unique identification of the object stored and “value” the object itself. Seagate introduced the Kinetic HDD in fall 2014, while vendors such as HGST and Huawei are currently developing or offering drives that could function within the open source Kinetic ecosystem. The Kinetic HDD, in essence, removes the need for the interposition of traditional file system and storage controllers by integrating an ARM based “micro-server”, supported by Seagate proprietary software that functions as the key value store for data management and security measures, such as encryption and ISE (Instant Secure Erase), directly into the drive. These intelligent drives, currently targeting extremely large data sets and long-term storage, connect with each other and the object storage application through two 1-Gbps SGMII Ethernet ports and a standard IP address. This allows for individual or clustered deployments in chassis, available from several partners, with higher density and improved scalability. The removal of at least one layer of complexity also affects performance by decreasing the operations required to store and retrieve objects.

On the software side, these drives are enabled by a “key-value interface”: the open source Kinetic Drive API and associated libraries. They are streamlined to provide a set of object storage features that interact directly with Kinetic hardware, improving on technologies such as shingled magnetic recording (SMR), and simplifying operations (the three primary operations are get, input, and delete) while adding capabilities such as erasure coding. The open nature of these APIs allows for flexible and innovative development that not only empower developers to address their specific storage needs with a custom architecture but also inspires collaborative and independent development to expand and mature Kinetic technology and its application on a shorter timeline.

Seagate’s Kinetic Open Storage vision is gaining considerable momentum of late, and has challenged many of the accepted standards that have long defined the realm of storage. The value gains claimed by Seagate, 4x better performance and much as a 50% reduction in TCO among them, champion Kinetic as the new frontier in storage to be sure. However, with certain scrutiny of these claims from competitors, a mostly undefined open source landscape that will actively shape the technologies future, and expansion into additional drive types on the horizon, who will emerge as the leader in this new frontier is something Edison analysts will be following closely.