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Western Digital OpenFlex composes storage infrastructure

Western Digital delivers OpenFlex architecture, an ambitious attempt to foster open standards for composable compute, network and storage as an alternative to hyper-convergence.

Western Digital Corp. is venturing into composable infrastructure with fabrics-connected storage appliances and a vow to push for open industry standards.

Western Digital OpenFlex storage hardware, unveiled Tuesday at Flash Memory Summit in Santa Clara, Calif., includes the F3000 Series NVMe flash device, the E3000 Series fabric enclosure and the disk-based D3000 device. The devices support an NVMe-over-Fabrics (NVMe-oF) interface using common network protocols. The systems allow compute and storage to be physically separated and virtualized as shared resources.

The Western Digital OpenFlex NAND flash-based F3000 and 3U E3000 enclosure will be generally available in September. The 1U D3000 disk appliance is slated for release in 2019. Customers can purchase multiple racks of flash and disk and configure namespaces for different application service levels.

To drive industry standards, the disk manufacturer said mechanical OpenFlex hardware specifications and a new management API, named Kingfish, will be available for community development.

OpenFlex is intended for hyperscale data centers that need to flexibly consume IT infrastructure as on-demand services, said Scott Hamilton, a Western Digital senior director of product management.

"This addresses the pain points of the evolving chaos associated with the amount of data and the ways in which data is being transformed," Hamilton said.

Key components of Western Digital OpenFlex

Composable infrastructure is a DevOps framework that treats storage, compute and networking as consumable-on-demand resources. The method presents resources as a logical pool to be provisioned and redeployed quickly for different workloads. The objective is to avoid overprovisioning and underutilization.

Storage vendors are in the early days of launching products for composable infrastructure. Hewlett Packard Enterprise pioneered composable infrastructure with its Synergy technologies. Dell EMC in May announced it plans to roll out the Kinetic composable platform in 2019, based on modular PowerEdge MX servers.

We want to break apart the constraints of hyper-converged so that compute and storage resources are just pools that can be composed in a dynamic way, as the workflow dictates.
Scott Hamiltonsenior director of product management, Western Digital

The ability to compose architecture on the fly helps developers overcome scaling limitations of hyper-converged systems that package compute, network and storage, and virtualization as an integrated hardware appliance.

"We want to break apart the constraints of hyper-converged so that compute and storage resources are just pools that can be composed in a dynamic way, as the workflow dictates," Hamilton said.

According to Western Digital, OpenFlex uses the NVMe fabric to address flash and disk devices. The modular building blocks can be optimized according to an application's service level.

The F3000 is an Ethernet-based appliance that scales from 12.8 TB to 61 TB of NAND flash and dual 50 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Ten hot-swappable F3000 fabric devices can fit in a single E3000 enclosure.

The OpenFlex D3000 scales to 168 TB of raw disk. All the disk capacity is presented as one large network-addressable drive, with multiple namespaces configurable for different applications.

Western Digital OpenFlex devices will ship with the vendor's hard disk drives and SSDs, but customers have the option to use their vendor of choice.

Western Digital: Open standards needed to fuel innovation

The Kingfish API is modeled on the Redfish server management and SNIA-based Swordfish storage management software hooks.

Western Digital listed 15 industry partners for its open standards push, including Ceph, HPE and Kaminario in storage. Other partners include Apache Hadoop, Broadcom, Cassandra, DriveScale, Kafka, Inspur, Mellanox, Mesos, Microsoft SQL, Percona, Spark and Supermicro.

"This is just the beginning. By next year's Flash Memory Summit, we expect to have pages and pages of vendor logos," Hamilton said.

OpenFlex appliances are the latest Western Digital storage appliances. The drive maker also sells ActiveScale object, Tegile IntelliFlash arrays (picked up through acquisition) and Ultrastar hybrid storage servers.

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