LSI Wins Gigantesque Deal

French oil exploration firm CGG plans to buy - mon Dieu! - 1 petabyte of ATA storage from LSI

June 26, 2003

3 Min Read
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LSI Logic Storage Systems Inc. beat out several larger competitors to land a massive contract with Compagnie Gnérale de Géophysique (CGG), a French technology firm serving the oil exploration industry that expects to buy 1 petabyte of ATA-based disk storage from LSI in the next 12 months (see CGG Picks LSI Logic Storage).

The companies did not disclose the financial terms of the deal. However, assuming that LSI is charging at least 1 cent per Mbyte for its systems, the CGG contract would be worth -- at a minimum -- $10 million.

Paris-based CGG provides a range of seismic data acquisition, processing, and geoscience services and software to clients in the oil and gas industry, including BP, Exxon Mobil Corp., and Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

The company requires huge amounts of data storage for the seismic images it provides to customers and currently has around 3 petabytes (3,000 Tbytes) of data on LTO tape cartridges, served by an Advanced Digital Information Corp. (Nasdaq: ADIC) tape autoloader to several thousand clustered Unix servers.

Guillaume Cambois, executive VP of data processing and reservoir services at CGG, says the company wanted to move to a higher-performance storage infrastructure. "We've been pressed by clients to deliver data faster, so we've pushed to reduce the turnaround time," he says.Historically, keeping such large amounts of data on disk -- one of CGG's typical seismic surveys is 1 Tbyte -- was simply too expensive. Now, with lower-cost ATA drives, the company has found the right cost/performance balance.

"This is a significant improvement in throughput, and the economics of ATA make it possible," Cambois says. He adds that CGG will keep the tapes for data archiving (naturellement!), but most of its primary computation data will reside on the LSI disks.

CGG currently runs 700 Tbytes of LSI storage; the 1,000 Tbytes of additional storage will be delivered on LSI's high-end 5884 storage controller platform. The system will use ATA drives initially -- LSI refused to name the manufacturer that will supply the drives -- and CGG expects to switch to serial ATA drives toward the end of the year.

The amount of floor space required to house 1 petabyte of disk storage, provided by around 10,000 100-Gbyte ATA drives, is not trivial. With 140 drives fitting in one cabinet, that's a total of more than 70 cabinets. CGG will install the storage primarily in its three main data centers, which are in Houston, London, and Kuala Lumpur.

However, LSI notes that higher-capacity ATA drives coming to market should improve the densities of such large-scale implementations. "There will be half-terabyte ATA drives in the market by this time next year," says Tom Georgens, president of LSI Logic Storage Systems.LSI beat out several other vendors to win the deal, including EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ). Cambois says CGG picked LSI for a variety of reasons, with its most important criterion being reliability, followed by performance, cost/performance ratio, and the fact that CGG has been using LSI's storage since 1999.

Georgens says he believes the opportunity for vendors like LSI Logic Storage Systems to replace large-scale tape farms with low-cost disk systems is just beginning.

"I think this is not going to be a unique event," he says. "You'll see a lot more applications moving to inexpensive ATA disk."

— Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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