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Huawei developing NMVe over IP SSD

Seagate Kinetic drive idea had Huawei genesis and has Huawei follow-on

Analysis Huawei is developing an NVMe over IP SSD with an on-drive object storage scheme meaning radically faster object storage and a re-evaluation of what object storage's very purpose.

At the Huawei Connect 2017 event in Shanghai, Guangbin Meng, Storage Product Line President for Huawei, told El Reg Huawei is developing an NVMe over IP SSD to overcome in-system scaling limits. Such an SSD could enable an all-flash array to scale up to tens of thousands of nodes. Each drive would have its own IP address.

This reminds El Registero of Seagate’s Kinectic disk drive idea, in which each disk drive has its own Ethernet address and implements an object storage scheme with Get and Put data access operators. The Kinetic disk concept seems to have run its course inside Seagate and facing oblivion. However startup OpenIO is persevering with object storage disks. Igneous has similar ideas with Ethernet-Accessed, ARM CPU-driven disks.

Cameron Bahar, VP and CTO for Enterprise Storage at Huawei’s Santa Clara facility, says Huawei actually had the Kinetic drive idea before Seagate. He explains that Garth Gibson, the man who developed RAID proposed a NAS-attached storage disk in a pre-2000 paper. He then went to Panasas as CTO and tried to develop the idea but it didn’t get any traction.

In 2012 Huawei built an object store in its Santa Clara facility using key:value disks. Each disk had a daughter card attached to it with an ARM CPU, DRAM and Linux. The device was even patented.

However a Huawei employee went to Seagate and persuaded Seagate to develop its Kinetic disk. The drives there already had ARM CPUs inside them looking after the internal disk drive functions, Bahar said the extra cost for a Kinetic drive, the Kinetic tax, was US$20. That's quite high, especially for those who buy disks by the thousand as you would when building the kind of scale-out rigs at which object storage excels.

Back to Huawei and its NVMe over IP concept for flash drives; SSDs. Huawei had the idea of combining this with the on-drive object store and creating an object storage system composed from individual flash drive nodes. The object storage software is Huawei’s own and involves a key:value store on each drive.

Bahar talked about two kinds of object store; cheap and deep S3-style which is the traditional idea, and fast object stores based on key:value store flash drive nodes.

What happens if we have very fast object stores? Let’s put them in an array and add a NAS gateway. We then have a flash-based and vastly-scalable filer. There could be different types of flash; faster and slower drives for example. How enterprises or cloud service providers could use such an array is a fascinating question. We might imagine video production, security surveillance systems, big data analytics and AI/machine learning applications might have an interest in it.

It’s only Huawei at present, with a developing and dramatically faster object storage system based on NVME over IP-accessed flash drive nodes. It’s a promising concept that could find traction. Let’s see where it goes. ®

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