Kioxia has killed its Kumoscale networked flash system

Quietly and with no fanfare, Kioxia has killed its Kumoscale networked flash array or JBOF. The deed was done three months ago, in May, with a note for partners: “Thank you for interest in KumoScale software (“Product”). There is no plan for enhancement beyond Version 3.22 as the Product has transitioned to maintenance only, and no new evaluation or production licenses will be granted. If you have any questions, please contact us.”

Joel Dedrick

“Kumo” is a noun meaning cloud in Japanese and Toshiba Memory set up its cloud scale SSD seven years ago.

Kioxia America, or Toshiba Memory America as it then was, recruited Joel Dedrick from being a consultant at Intel and previously SanDisk, to become VP and GM for its networked storage software business unit in September 2016. He says on LinkedIn that he was “recruited to build and drive a new product line” which was the KumoScale networked block storage software. Dedrick says he: “Defined [a] new product category; “networked block-storage node” to distinguish KumoScale from all-flash arrays and “JBOFs.”

But KumoScale was, to all intents and purposes, a JBOF. The networked block storage node concept signalled it was equivalent to a flash storage chassis in an external block storage array with some controller software functionality – an inferior external and scale-out all-flash SAN, in other words.

Dedrick’s team built up a software stack to run the hardware, with much use of OpenStack. There was no reinventing of existing software wheels. Instead the software stack was consistently enhanced. For example:

  • Nov 2020 – integrated KumoScale flash storage array into the Kubernetes world.
  • Dec 2021 – added admin tools and support for latest version of OpenStack.
  • June 2021 – added up-to-date OpenStack access control and open source integrations and increased its network access availability and bandwidth with a preview of multi-path networking support for NVMe-oF storage over TCP/IP networks.
  • April 2022 – v2.0 includes additional bare metal deployment options, seamless support for OpenID Connect 1.0, and support for NVIDIA Magnum IO GPUDirect Storage (GDS).
  • July 2023 – a cluster-wide Command Line Interface (Cluster CLI), compatibility with OpenStack Yoga multipathing, and interoperability with Microsoft Azure Active Directory.

The big issue was that disk and SSD supplier Toshiba did not want to make a full-scale SAN storage array, because to do so would pit it in competition against its own OEM customers who built their SANs with Toshiba SSDs. Rule number 1: suppliers shouldn’t compete with customers. So Dedrick attempted to define a middle ground product market category, between drives and full SAN arrays, which sidestepped that trap, but it did not have enough substance. Seven years after it was founded, the business unit has had its main product put into maintenance.

We have asked Koixia and it reiterated its earlier statement: “While KIOXIA is still supporting existing customers and KumoScale deployments there is no plan for enhancement beyond Version 3.22 as the product has transitioned to maintenance only, and no new evaluation or production licenses will be granted. We cannot comment on any additional details.”

Western Digital example

Western Digital faced the same kind of problems when it tried to build a datacenter storage business. It produced IntelliFlash, based on acquired Tegile disk and NVME SSD array technology, and ActiveScale archival array products. ActiveScale was based on HGST’s 2015 Amplidata object storage acquisition; WD having bought HGST in 2012.

The WD data center products business was killed off in September 2019 with the IntelliFlash product sold to DDN and the ActiveScale archival array to Quantum. WD still has its Ultrastar Edge Server rack chassis containing 8 x 7.68TB SN640 NVME SSDs for edge data collection and physical transport to a data center.

Storage drive manufacturers should not generally compete with their channel of storage hardware/software system builders. WD learnt that lesson in 2019 and now, four years later, Kioxia has too.

Seagate still has product lines built on and around its disk drives, including the Lyve Drive Mobile, Lyve Cloud and Exos RAID array product.