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Startup Panasas Inc. today ended three years in stealth mode with the launch of its high-scale clustered NAS system -- which the company claims blows everything else on the market out of the water (see Panasas Launches Clustered Linux NAS).

But never mind the usual braggadocio of well-funded startups: Panasas has a marquee customer backing it up. A huge customer, actually. Los Alamos National Laboratory, which has already installed 120 Tbytes of Panasas's storage system and has signed a contract with the option to purchase up to 500 Tbytes more over the next twelve months.

Gary Grider, scaleable I/O team leader for Los Alamos's high-performance computing environment, says the lab evaluated several other vendors but none of the others even came close to offering what Panasas did.

"We really, really like the object-based file system model," he says. The Panasas architecture provides much greater I/O throughput -- in the range of 3 to 4 Gbyte/s -- compared with traditional NAS systems. "Normal off-the-shelf NFS servers won't do that. That's what makes object-based file systems different... It enables this kind of scaleability." Grider notes that Los Alamos, which among other applications runs large-scale nuclear weapons simulations, has been working with Panasas since around the time it was founded in September 2000.

Rod Schrock, CEO and president of Panasas, says the system took 250 person years of engineering. "The proof is in the pudding: We have the largest customer in the history of Linux," he crows. The Los Alamos contract is worth an estimated $2.6 million, according to Panasas.

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