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Panasas Stages HPC Jailbreak

Panasas is busting out of its HPC (high-performance computing) parallel storage niche to assault the broader storage market. ActiveStor 11 scales to 6 petabytes of capacity and 115 GBps of throughput from a single global namespace, and should expand the company's addressable market from computationally intensive application environments to a variety of markets, whether deployed as part of a dedicated research cluster or a multitenant private cloud platform. It features user quotas, snapshots and per-user chargeback reporting, and administrators can add new storage to the global namespace from a single point of management in fewer than 10 minutes without disrupting workflows, says Panasas.

Storage is typically an afterthought in HPC environments, says the company, with the majority of IT budgets (70 to 80%) dedicated to the compute side. Storage is usually an add-on, built out as required, Panasas says. So an affordable, easy-to-add-and-configure storage solution is very important to this market.

There are three members of the ActiveStor family: 8 (value), 11 (high capacity) and 12 (high performance). ActiveStor 8 starts at $65,000 for 40 TBytes; 11 lists for $90,000 for 60 TBytes with up to 1,150 MBps reads; and 12 comes in at $110,000 for 60 TBytes and delivers 1,600 MBps writes and 1,500 MBps reads in real-world environments, as well as 80 MBps per disk in end-to-end throughput, says Panasas. The 60-TByte models will start shipping in August.

The addition of the more-affordable ActiveStor 11 opens more doors, says Panasas. It is drawing interest from a relatively new market, bioscience, where the focus tends to be less on performance and more on storage capacity. The company says that while they like performance, they're not willing to pay as much as oil and gas customers.

According to a recent report from IDC ("HPC End-User Study of the Evolution of Storage in Technical Computing"), unbalanced HPC systems are exacerbating storage challenges by generating unprecedented data volumes. But while there are buyers prepared to pay 10 to 15% extra for desired attributes currently unavailable, the market is too small to motivate vendors to make the extra R&D investments needed for revolutionary advances in mainstream storage and related technologies. The good news for Panasas, notes IDC, is that the storage market will continue to outpace the server market at least through 2014.

Marco Coulter, research director, storage practice and cloud practice, TheInfoPro, likes the Panasas approach. "It is nice to see a storage vendor offer larger capacity drives at the same price point. This is a pattern that all storage vendors could do well to follow."

However, he cautions, moving from a niche to a general market can be a challenge for any growing company. "By associating themselves with internal cloud storage services, Panasas is aligning themselves with one of the hottest technologies on TheInfoPro's Storage Management Heat Index. Our fifteenth storage study shows 30% of respondents from large and midsize enterprises have plans to deploy private cloud storage services in the next two years. Elasticity is an essential characteristic of cloud computing, and Panasas delivers this key function in the storage layer."

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