Genome Sequencing Center at Washington U.

DNA research center adds BlueArc's new Titan to its NAS collection

February 22, 2006

3 Min Read
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Because it deals with millions of files, the Genome Sequencing Center at the Washington University at St. Louis is always looking for the latest and greatest in NAS.

The center already has about 50 TBytes of capacity on Network Appliance FAS980 and NearStore R200 systems, and another 50 TBytes on BlueArc Titans. Now its senior technical manager Kelly Carpenter is trying out his new BlueArc Titan 2200 system to see if it lives up to Blue Arc's promises. (See BlueArc Beefs Up Titan.)

"I'm from Missouri, I don't believe a whole lot until I see it," Carpenter says.

Thus far, he likes what Titan's showing him. Carpenter hasn't yet measured the I/O per second, but he gets about the same performance as his first Titan while using half as many blades.

"I like to beat on things until they surrender," he admits. "We have about 400 blades, and so far we're running 80 to 100 blades and it's hardly breaking a sweat. It's been hauling butt on medium and large files. And the average person uses larger files than I do, so he'll get even better performance."Carpenter has less use for some of BlueArc's new features, such as its global namespace and 4-Gbit/s connectivity. His 2-Gbit/s SAN still gives him more than enough performance, and he doesn't have enough filers to benefit from global namespace.

"It would be nice for bigger shops with dozens of systems, but we're just using a couple," he says of global namespace. "It's more of a management boost than a performance boost. I'm looking for performance."

Still, Carpenter was "customer No. 1" on the Titan 2200, which starts at about $100,000. He wasn't always so fast to sign on for new NAS systems. He started looking at NetApp NAS in 1997 but didn't buy until around 2003. He waited more than a year before buying his first Titan despite being a fan of its strategy of putting the file system functions in hardware rather than in an operating system.

"I thought they had a good idea putting all the junk into the hardware," he says. "I was expecting NetApp to buy them."

He also looked at and dismissed EMC NAS as too slow, and found Panasas and Data Direct "innovative" before selecting BlueArc. (See Panasas Rocks Stanford .) He intends to stick with NetApp as well, and is pondering Pillar Data. (See Pillar Leaves Post At Last.)"We're still considering putting one in-house to test," he reports. "I think they've got a good chance. They have different ideas. They're partitioning virtual drives so this one will be as fast as Fibre Channel, this one's a little slower, and this one's even slower for archive data. But we're waiting and seeing."

Why so much interest in NAS? With 15 research scientists and more than 250 users completing DNA and other gene-related research, the center's applications use "millions and millions of small files." But it has block data too, particularly in its Oracle 10-Gbyte database. So the center requires plenty of SAN gear, although it's not quite as new. Carpenter has a midrange EMC Clariion 4700, and Hitachi pre-Tagmastore Lighting 9980 and Lightning 7700 enterprise systems.

He plans to consolidate 10 StorageTek SDLT tape libraries from Sun with four of its new T10000 libraries, and is already looking forward to upgrading to T10000 with encryption in August or September. (See Sun Fills in Storage Crypto Details.)

Obviously, Carpenter's not afraid to have a hetergenous storage environment. He finds it can be a big advantage when buying new gear. "When you're negotiating, it's always good to have something else in house that works."

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and SwitchOrganizations mentioned in this article:

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