Big-Data Handler Panasas Launches Plug-and-Play HPC Storage

New ActiveStor supercharged parallel storage system is optimized for metadata-intensive applications in commercial and traditional high-performance-computing environments.

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A lot of people don’t realize that Panasas, created by the industry-legendary Garth Gibson and born at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh two decades ago, invented the high-performance parallel file-system storage genre that uses both hard disk drives and solid-state disks.

On Nov. 8, the company, now based in Sunnyvale, Calif., unveiled the next generation of its industrial-strength ActiveStor scale-out network-attached storage package, which is capable of extending capacity to a rather sizable 57PB and delivering 360GB/s of bandwidth.

These aren’t exactly storage systems for beginners. Panasas designs and builds systems that handle extremely big data loads, such as for genomics projects, weather computations, space exploration, oil and gas geographics, mapping the ocean floor—those types of jobs.

"You won't see Panasas in your dentist's office," a prominent storage analyst told eWEEK years ago.

Speeds Up Metadata Movement to Cut Access Time Big Time

The company claims that its new system doubles metadata movement performance to cut data access time in half, scales performance and capacity independently and even adapts to new technology advancements.

The new ActiveStor Director 100 (ASD-100) control-plane engine and the ActiveStor Hybrid 100 (ASH-100) configurable plug-and-play storage device offer users the flexibility to design storage systems that meet their exact specifications and workflow requirements, now and in the future, Panasas said.

The new ActiveStor package is designed to speed up time to results for traditional and commercial high-performance-computing use cases that include those noted above in addition to manufacturing, life sciences, energy, government, education and research. You also can throw in applications used for media and entertainment.

Data movement has always been the main stumbling block in most enterprise storage systems. Panasas solved that long ago with its patented architecture.

ActiveStor uses the ASD-100, the ASH-100, an updated PanFS 7.0 parallel file system, and enhancements to the DirectFlow parallel data-access protocol to offer these features:

Performance: Users can scale metadata performance, data bandwidth, and data capacity independently for faster time to results.

Flexibility: The ability to mix and match HDD and SSD configurations under a single global namespace enables users to best match the system performance to their workload requirements.

Productivity: The new ActiveStor solution doubles productivity by cutting data access time in half, regardless of the number of users.

Investment Protection: The solution is backward and forward compatible with the ActiveStor product portfolio.

More technical information on the components:

ASD-100: For the first time, Panasas is offering a disaggregated Director Blade (ASD-100), the brain of the Panasas storage system, to provide the ultimate in flexibility. Customers can now add any number of ASD-100s to drive exactly the level of metadata performance they need. With double the raw CPU (central processing unit) power and RAM (random access memory) capacity of previous Director Blades, the ASD-100 delivers double the metadata performance on metadata intensive workloads.

Based on industry-standard hardware, the ASD-100 manages metadata and the global namespace; it also acts as a gateway for standard data-access protocols such as NFS (network file system) and SMB (server message block). The ASD-100 uses non-volatile dual in-line memory modules (NVDIMMs) to store metadata transaction logs, and Panasas is contributing its NVDIMM (non-volatile dual in-line memory module) driver to the FreeBSD community.

ASH-100: The ASH-100 is the first hardware platform to offer the highest capacity HDD (12TB hard disk drive) and SSD (1.9TB solid-state disk) in a parallel hybrid storage system. A broad range of HDD and SSD capacities can be paired as needed to meet specific workflow requirements. The ASH-100 can be configured with ASD-100s or can be delivered with integrated traditional ActiveStor Director Blades, depending on customer requirements.

PanFS 7.0: The latest version of the industry’s only plug-and-play parallel file system features an updated FreeBSD operating foundation and a dynamic GUI (graphical user interface) that supports asynchronous “push” notification of system changes without user interaction.

DirectFlow Client: The updated DirectFlow parallel data access protocol offers a 15 percent improvement in throughput due to enhancements to memory allocation and readahead. All ActiveStor models will benefit from this performance increase after upgrading to the new release of PanFS.

Availability: The ASH-100 is shipping now. The ASD-100 and PanFS 7.0 will be available in Q1 2018.

Panasas will demonstrate the new ActiveStor solution in booth #671 at this year’s SuperComputing conference in Denver, Colo., set for Nov. 12-17.

For more information, including technical specifications, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...