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Kaminario K2 flash array replaces PCIe with SAS SSDs

Todd Erickson

Kaminario this week launched new versions of its K2 all-flash arrays and operating

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system, bringing out a modular 1U design while switching from PCI Express flash cards to hot-swappable SAS solid-state drives.

The startup uses commodity hardware and its SPEAR (Scale out Performance and Resilient Architecture) OS to build its Kaminario K2 arrays.

"It's software-defined, in that we use the commodity, off-the-shelf hardware underneath it," said Phil Williams, Kaminario's vice president of marketing and business development. "We work with the various solid-state vendors out here. We're focused on software and the related software stacks."

The fourth-generation Kaminario K2 array includes 800 GB or 1.6 TB SAS drives as building blocks for its scale-out architecture. Each 1U server contains four drives, and can support between 3 TB and 6 TB of capacity. Previous Kaminario K2 designs included Fusion-io solid-state PCI Express (PCIe) cards and blade servers.

Kaminario is not the only solid-state storage vendor moving to SAS drives. "That's really the trend across the board," said Jim Bagley, a senior analyst with Austin, Texas-based Storage Strategies Now.

Williams said Kaminario's emphasis in the new release was to address mid-market enterprises. To support that, the startup also introduced new configurations for smaller customers. The company sells the K2 in four-node units called K-Blocks. Now it has added two-node half-blocks and three-node three-quarter blocks. Systems ship with a minimum of two blocks for redundancy.

"I think that makes the configurability a lot more flexible," Storage Strategies Now's Bagley said of the smaller blocks. "They've been able to get a much better entry-level [configuration] and a lot higher density in terms of how many rack units they're using."

Each block includes dual processors, two host ports per node, and between four and eight active-active Fibre Channel ports or 10 Gbps active-active Ethernet iSCSI ports.

"Every component is highly available and every component is hot-swappable now that we've moved to SAS-based MLC [multi-level cell] and away from PCIe," Kaminario's Williams said.

"We can recover from a failure faster than any other architecture out there," he said. "And in doing so, we have guaranteed that a customer will not see more than 25% degradation, even in the highest kind of failure."

The denser, smaller K2 comes at a time when the all-flash market is becoming extremely competitive and perhaps overcrowded. IBM last week re-launched the Texas Memory Systems platform as the IBM FlashSystem and vowed to spend $2 billion developing flash over the next three years. EMC is beginning to sell its XtremIO all-flash arrays, and startups Astute Networks, Nimbus Data, Pure Storage, Skyera, SolidFire, Tegile, Violin Memory and Whiptail are in the all-flash market.

Kaminario also extended its solid-state drive (SSD) manufacturers' warranty at 10 writes per day from five years to seven years.

The fourth-generation SPEAR OS also includes expanded support for VMware server and desktop virtualization, Open Stack cloud computing and REST APIs for running the K2 array with open source and third-party management applications.

Kaminario dropped its pricing for the K2 array to between $10 per GB and $15 per GB, depending on the configuration. Williams said that is around half of the previous price.


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