Kaminario emerges with DRAM solid-state storage appliance

Kaminario K2 storage grid consists of off-the-shelf servers running DRAM plus the startup's operating system software to accelerate application performance.

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Kaminario came out of stealth today with a DRAM-based solid-state storage appliance that it claims can provide faster access to data in key applications than if those applications were stored on traditional SANs.

The Kaminario K2 is built on Dell blade servers with Kaminario data management software. Each Kaminario K2 consists of at least two ioDirectors and four Data Nodes for 300,000 IOPS and 3.2 GBps throughput. ioDirectors connect to servers through 8 Gbps Fibre Channel and to Data Nodes through 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Each Data Node includes processors, DRAM and two SAS drives, and the nodes are clustered for high availability.

The key, Kaminario product manager Arik Kol said, is its kOS operating system that controls load balancing of data across the DRAM of each Data Node. Kol said the DRAM of the entire system looks like a single high-speed disk to the application.

Data Nodes store operation data in DRAM and use hard drives as backup in case of a system crash. For each data block, kOS designates a primary and secondary Data Node. The primary node holds the data in DRAM and on one hard drive, while the secondary node holds a backup copy on one if its hard drives.

Read and write requests submitted to an ioDirector are broken into commands sent in parallel to all relevant primary Data Nodes. Primary Data Nodes read data from DRAM and send back the requested data to the ioDirector, which then merges the received data and sends it back to the requesting host. Primary data nodes store write requests locally on their DRAM, then temporarily store the data to secondary Data Nodes DRAM. When a primary Data Node receives an acknowledgement from its secondary Data Node, it sends back the requested data to the ioDirector. The ioDirector than merges all the data received and sends it back to the requesting host. The primary and secondary Data Nodes later copy the data to their hard drives for backup.

Kaminario K2 claims better performance than Flash-based solid-state drives

Kaminario claims it can deliver better performance than Flash-based solid state drives at a cheaper price. Pricing starts at $200,000 for two ioDirectors and four Data Nodes. Customers add Data Nodes to scale capacity and ioDirectors to scale performance.

"We noticed companies have problems with I/O challenges that handicap applications," Kol said. "The idea is to take the most demanding applications and transfer the data onto the K2 appliance."

Kol claims Kaminario K2 can make applications run 100 times faster than on a traditional enterprise SAN. He said the target applications for K2 are those with high processing requirements, such as stock trading or real-time business intelligence applications. However, he said companies can also benefit from running relational databases and early customers include health care organizations.

"Customers can carve an application holding crucial data out of their SAN and move it to our appliance," he said.

Henry Baltazar, a storage analyst at The 451 Group, refers to Kaminario K2 as "basically a really fast LUN" that provides an alternative to Flash-based solid-state drives.

"Everybody's chasing the same problem, and that's disk not being fast enough," he said. "DRAM's going to get them the highest performance."

Winning wider acceptance key to growth

From a business standpoint, analysts say, Kaminario's challenge is to win acceptance of Kaminario K2 beyond financial services organizations that need blazing fast performance for trading applications.

"They've created the lunatic fringe of I/O," said Arun Taneja, founder and consulting analyst at Taneja Group. "They give you blazing I/O for the best of the best applications, and that guy running those applications will pay for the lunatic fringe performance. The question is, 'Is there enough of that lunatic fringe to make a business out of?'"

Kaminario's Kol said K2 can complement a high-end SAN, and a customer can add one of their appliances instead of an additional enterprise system such as an EMC Symmetrix or Hitachi Data Systems USP V. Kaminario K2 is also competitive with systems such as Texas Memory Systems' RamSAN products.

The 451 Group's Baltazar said an OEM deal with a storage vendor would help the startup.

"A really fast box like this, with an economic advantage over an SSD, can be a tier within something else," he said. "A large vendor with tiering could use them within their high end."

Kaminario is headquartered in Boston. Its development team and founders — including CEO Dani Golan and vice president of marketing and products Moshe Selfin — are based in Israel.

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