Panasas Pumps Up Parallel Storage

HPC specialist takes aim at the commercial market with storage overhaul

August 20, 2008

4 Min Read
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Parallel storage provider Panasas announced the expansion of its ActiveStor product line in a move to strongly position itself for the commercial market.

Panasas has provided high performance computing (HPC) with its ActiveStor 3000 and 5000 series solutions for organizations like Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which relies on efficient processing and storage of very large batch files.

It is now unveiling the AS4000 and AS6000 devices, which are priced, respectively, at around $3.50 per Gbyte and $5 per Gybte, and the AS200 second-tier storage device, which is priced at around $1.20 per Gbyte. All the products use the Panasas ActiveScale 3.2 operating environment. The AS200 is available now, and the AS4000 and AS6000 will be available in September.

The AS6000 is designed to meet the needs of commercial organizations heavily invested in research and product development for design, modeling and visualization,” says Matt Reid, Panasas’s director of product marketing, highlighting, in particular, the oil and gas, aerospace, and automotive sectors. “It includes 20 GBytes of cache per storage shelf with an integrated 10GigE switch that doubles the throughput performance per storage shelf to over 600-Mbytes/s.”

Panasas is also releasing its AS200 parallel second-tier storage solution that includes 104 Tbytes of storage space, five Gigabit Ethernet ports for quick transfer rates, and tiered parity data protection. The product can parallel-archive data to disk so it can be moved to tape at later times without impairing other operations, according to the vendor.“We have been working on broadening our products to address some of the pain points felt in manufacturing, financial services, biotech and other industries,” says Reid. “We believe long-term, that the entire computing architecture will drive toward more parallelism, and that parallel storage will be a prominent part of that new architecture.”

The exec also feels that Panasas is in a good position compared to competitors such as EMC, NetApp, and Isilon.

“Many of our competitors offer either NFS (network file system) or clustered NFS solutions,” he says. “NFS can work well if you have a low number of clients, and clustered NFS can work as long as you can continue to load-balance and avoid the bottlenecks that occur with servers at the middle of the architecture... but our direct parallel approach takes the servers out of the equation and creates direct parallel processing between the clients and storage that eliminates 80-90 percent of the need to load balance.”

Reports from early adopters have been favorable.

Statoil, which does deep water oil exploration and uses decision-making software to determine which drilling rights to bid on, worked with Panasas to “marry” parallel processing codes in its applications to Panasas parallel storage. The company has apparently experienced a tenfold performance improvement.The National Institute of Health (NIH), which had continued to scale up its compute cluster until it “topped out” on nodes, also worked with Panasas in marrying its applications to the parallel storage architecture. NIH added AS200 secondary storage to assist in archiving the large body of data it must accumulate in storing the research data of its many contractors.

“Our technology continues to support NFS and NAS, but we believe that the future is parallelism in IT infrastructure and that storage will be an integral part of it,” says Reid. “The AS4000 and AS6000 products are the newer generations of our AS3000 and AS5000 product lines, and they fall in step with the incorporation of parallel applications by application vendors in the commercial markets we are targeting.”

Industry analyst Arun Taneja of the Taneja Group said that Panasas’s position vis a vis its storage competitors -- and its position in the commercial market -- will continue to evolve.

“There are many companies with storage offerings for commercial computing that offer NFS and CIFS solutions,” he says. “These companies include Netapp, EMC, Isilon, Ibrix and other - some do better in handling large numbers of small files while others excel in handling small numbers of large files."

There is nonetheless no clear “number one” vendor for NFS or CIFS storage for every application, according to the analyst."So if you’re a site, you have to be aware of the type of problem you’re trying to address and who is best positioned to solve it,” he says. “Of course, parallel storage can deliver better performance than NFS or CIFS – the tradeoff is that it’s proprietary architecture. But if Panasas succeeds in getting companies and vendors to make its proprietary code part of their applications, this could provide Panasas additional traction in commercial markets.”

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  • EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC)

  • Ibrix Inc.

  • Los Alamos National Laboratory

  • NetApp Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Panasas Inc.

  • Taneja Group

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