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Kaminario adds dedupe, density to K2 flash array

All-flash vendor Kaminario implements 'selectable' inline deduplication that can be turned on or off.

Kaminario, which until now counted on hardware performance to deliver value for its all-flash arrays, today added inline data reduction and scale-up capabilities to its K2 block storage systems.

Along with the addition of inline dedupe and compression, Kaminario is adding thin provisioning and the ability to use solid-state drive (SSD) shelves with its K-block controllers to scale capacity without adding performance. Kaminario already allowed customers to scale-out by adding nodes for performance and capacity.

Kaminario claims the data reduction, greater density from adding shelves and use of lower-cost SATA SSDs can reduce the price of a system to $2 per usable GB. Previously, Kaminario put its pricing at more than $8 per GB. The actual cost is hard to nail down, however. Kaminario does not publish list pricing and the $2 per GB includes the results of data reduction, which varies by application.

Kaminario implemented what it calls selectable global inline deduplication that customers can turn off for specific volumes. Kaminario CEO Dani Golan said that is to avoid wasting CPU cycles on applications that do not dedupe well. These include databases with built-in compression.

"Dedupe is good for virtual server environments and VDI, but not effective for databases," Golan said. "For databases, it takes memory resources without providing benefits. Our customers can turn dedupe off in volumes that support databases."

Golan said Kaminario is guaranteeing a 3:1 data reduction, even with dedupe turned off -- Kaminario's compression is always on. If customers do not see at least a 3:1 ratio, Kaminario will give them free hardware to make up the difference. Kaminario does not charge for any software features.

Kaminario claims it is the only vendor to allow customers to turn off dedupe, but Nimbus also offers that capability. EMC XtremIO and Pure Storage also support inline dedupe, but it must always be on or always be off.

Kaminario claims up to 2 million IOPS, up from an already impressive 1 million IOPS in the previous version. The K2 raw capacity has increased from 240 terabyte (TB) per cluster in the previous version to 307 TB per cluster.

The new K2 system consists of K-Blocks, which include two 1u K-Node controllers and SSD shelves. Kaminario supports up to eight K-Blocks in a cluster. Each node can have a 2u SSD shelf and customers can add expansion shelves. The nodes are connected by InfiniBand. The shelves can hold 24 400 GB or 800 GB MLC SSDs. Previously, the K2 did not support shelves to add SSDs without adding compute.

The arrays use K-RAID, Kaminario's version of RAID 6 that the vendor claims allows for 87.5% utilization and three drive failures per shelf without data loss. The K2 supports 16 Gbps Fibre Channel and 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ports for iSCSI.

With the new release, Kaminario is supporting 6 Gbps SATA SSDs. Previous versions used SAS SSDs. Customers can mix and match SSDs and controllers from previous versions with the new systems.

Kaminario pledges to add snapshot-based replication by the end of 2014.

Kaminario faces stiff competition in the flash array market. EMC, IBM, Hitachi Data Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Dell and NetApp have all-flash systems, as do Violin Memory, Pure Storage, Nimbus, Skyera and SolidFire. Practically all hard disk drive arrays are available with flash in hybrid configurations.

George Crump, lead analyst at Storage Switzerland, said all-flash vendors who initially designed their arrays specifically for performance are now adding storage management features for mainstream use. He puts Kaminario in that hardware performance category along with IBM FlashSystem -- acquired from Texas Memory Systems -- and Violin Memory.

"The first entrée to an all-flash device is almost always solving one big pain point, and then it's about growing the system to solve other pain points," Crump said. "The hardware guys are seeing the success that Pure and [hybrid flash vendor] Nimble are having and saying, 'We have to add the ability to do deduplication and compression.' If they can hit these check boxes and not sacrifice performance, they could end up with an advantage."

Crump said the software management features are necessary to succeed with so many all-flash arrays available. He said the $2 per GB price point should also help.

"Kaminario's challenge is to get people to pay attention," he said. "It's a noisy market."

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