Seagate – or rather, its Kinetic Ethernet drives – have seen the light

Hard disk biz mulls optical interconnects for key-value storage gear

Seagate appears to be working on possibly adding an optical interconnect to its Kinetic Ethernet disk drives, which organize data in key:value stores.

These drives provide a straightforward object-based access protocol, which is said to simplify the storage software stack needed by servers.

PETRA, the Photonics Electronics Technology Research Association of Japan, is developing optical interconnects for use in data centers, and hopes to make the tech commercially viable for large-scale deployment in future exascale systems.

Seagate will work with PETRA to deploy some of the association's prototype technologies with its own hardware as part of the European Nephele and PhoxTrot projects.

PETRA will show its silicon photonics I/O core optical transceiver packaged within a Seagate converged Ethernet storage controller at the OFC 2016 exhibition (booth 2245) this month. Seagate Kinetic storage drives have an on-board Ethernet controller, so we can see where this Seagate-PETRA development is headed.

Toshiba and Western Digital joined Seagate in the Kinetic Open Storage Project (KOSP) in August. A source familiar with Western Digital's thinking said its HGST unitspent a year trying to find worthwhile use cases for Kinetic drives with its customers, and drew a blank.

It saw management headaches in having to wrangle thousands of drive end-points on a network. There was also a problem in understanding how erasure coding would work as that is a cross-drive exercise. You have to do that at a high layer because the individual drive CPUs can’t do it.

Rather than come out publicly and say the technology was a failure, WD thought it best to keep quiet while the technology failed publicly.

Meanwhile, Toshiba has its well-known financial problems, and consequent restructuring and focussing on profitable operations, which must put non-revenue-generating projects like its open Kinetic drive at risk.

The Kinetic Open Storage Project could revert to being just a Seagate proprietary technology project.

A proof of concept demo of the PETRA and Seagate technology should be complete in late 2016. The OFC 2016 conference will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California between March 20 and 24. ®

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