This week we got a look at what the new software-driven Kaminario will look like, with the announcement of Kaminario Cloud Fabric, the new software-defined storage offering the company rolled out Tuesday.
You may remember that a couple of weeks ago the all-flash storage company said it was quitting the hardware business to become a software company, a surprise from a company whose K2 storage appliances took first place in three out of five use cases in a 19-way comparison in Gartner’s 2017 Critical Capabilities Report.
The shift at Kaminario didn't do away with the company's hardware product line but was part of a deal with Florida-based Tech Data, which now builds, sells, and services hardware built to Kaminario's specifications and equipped with its VisionOS, Clarity analytics software, and Flex automation and orchestration software, and released under the Kaminario K2 brand.
The software that became available today, Cloud Fabric, isn't really a new product, but a repositioning of Kaminario's existing software stack to make it attractive to the cloud service providers Kaminario is seeking to court. In essence, it's the same software used to power K2: the VisionOS software operating platform and Clarity. Later this year, Flex will be added.
The difference is that users purchase a stand-alone software license, and it doesn't have to be installed on a K2 appliance -- or not exactly.
"It allows them to purchase just the software license from Kaminario," Josh Epstein, Kaminario's CMO, told Data Center Knowledge. "It's 100 percent usage-based, so you only pay a software license for actual capacity utilized. It runs on industry standard hardware that is also available from Tech Data, but there's no linkage between the physical boxes or their components to the software license.
"That turns it into a software-defined storage model, and it brings all the benefits of software-defined storage in terms of the lower acquisition costs and much more flexibility in terms of the ability to scale up and scale down."
To be clear, data center operators can't buy a license for Cloud Fabric and install it on existing storage hardware. Customers must choose components from the company's certified hardware list and purchase the hardware from Tech Data, Kaminario's newfound partner.
If you're wondering why customers can't buy hardware from another source as long as they pay attention to Kaminario's system requirements, so was I.
"One of the thing's we've made our name on is truly enterprise-class capability in terms of availability, consistency, and predictability of performance, and overall functionality," Epstein said. "The idea of completely freewheeling software-defined storage that runs on anything is very complicated to deliver, particularly when you're talking about tier-one mission critical applications. Part of the service we provide is we choose very economic hardware but ensure that our software is completely tested, completely certified, and there's no concern whatsoever that the capabilities we promise will not be delivered.
"There is value for us to broaden the stack of hardware that we support, but there's benefit for customers to look at the certified stack on which we can effectively guarantee a level of performance and capability."
Epstein said Cloud Fabric is targeting large cloud service providers that compete with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft -- telcos, hosting companies, IT outsourcers, and the like -- who are investing in their own clouds. These providers, with multiple data centers and petabytes of storage they sell to end users, are central to the changing paradigm in a market where fewer companies are choosing to build their own data centers but are relying on the infrastructure of the cloud.
This shift in the market was a main motivator in Kaminario's move to become a software-focused business.
"Everyone understands that the storage business has changed a lot, and a lot of it is because of the cloud and these new technologies," he said. "In terms of just long-term company viability and company health, focusing our time and resources on the software makes a tremendous amount of sense. We're very excited to offer both of these models and to continue to have an appliance.
"There are still enterprise customers that are building their own data centers. They're buying 500 terabytes of high-performance storage to power their customer portal, so buying a fixed appliance makes a lot of sense. When you start talking about cloud-scale service providers, these are massive with tens of data centers and many petabytes of storage. For them to continue to purchase traditional storage arrays just doesn't fit their as-a-service business model. The cost structure and flexibility doesn't fit with what they're doing, so having an alternative, software-based consumption model where they only pay for what they're using and they can get the full benefit of the commodity economics of industry-standard hardware makes a tremendous amount of sense."
The other reason behind the "software only" move is that the hardware business is expensive and ties up large amounts of capital. This is important to a company that's raised $218 million in funding since it was founded in 2008 but has not yet turned a profit.
"It gives us more money to reach cash flow-positive," Epstein said. "We are tracking to be cash flow-positive by the end of 2018. We believe, if you look at the realities of the modern technology world, there is enormous value in being cash flow-positive."