Linux Business News
Panasas No Longer 'Lunatic Fringe' Play
Panasas' days of playing to the "lunatic fringe" are waning
Nov. 10, 2006 10:00 AM
arrived Panasas chief marketing officer Len Rosenthal, fresh from PathScale,
which he co-founded and sold to QLogic, says Panasas' days of playing to the
"lunatic fringe" are waning.
Its value proposition makes
it mission-critical, he says, especially as HPC, the company's specialty, goes
Panasas is not your daddy's
It claims to make storage
devices that maximize the performance of the applications deployed in Linux
clusters, clusters now being the lion's share of the HPC market, the same
clusters that by the way they're stuck together create pain-in-neck
In Panasas' universe,
clusters equal parallel computing and parallel computing needs parallel I/O to
unknot those bottlenecks. Panasas creates a single storage pool with parallel
data paths to the compute cluster, an architecture created by the guy who
invented RAID where the nodes talk directly to the storage without a server in
Panasas is sold 4.5PB since
Anyway, now it's trying its
hand at unified clustered storage with an ActiveStor 5000 Storage Cluster
that's meant to service both the batch user and the workstation user whose
The guy on the workstation
wants higher data availability, high I/O and more random access. The batch guy
is more focused on extreme capacity and high sequential I/O. One has smaller
files, the other mighty ones. One typically resorts to NAS, the other to SAN,
and the organization pays the bill for both.
Somewhere in between,
Panasas argues, HPC workflow benefits have been lost in favor of
specialization, resulting in increased time-to-market (the "data
motion" required to cross workflow boundaries), duplicated data sets and
increased IT costs.
The 5000 with its
cheaper-to-manage single pool of storage is supposed to cure the problem.
Pricing starts at $74,000 with availability in January. The widgetry is
currently in beta.
It puts 11 StorageBlades XC
and three DirectorBlades on a shelf so a shelf can hold 10TB and a standard 42U
rack can hold 100TB. The parallel random I/O reportedly accesses data in memory
faster than accessing data from the disk.
The new Intel-based
StorageBlade XC increases the StorageBlade cache from 512MB to 2GB and the
higher speed cache reportedly increases I/O performance as much as 10 times,
with up to 20GB of cache per shelf or 200GB per fully configured rack.
The company's new
ActiveGuard software is supposed to guarantee non-stop processing and uptime,
with complete storage network failover ensured by a second gigE link and
metadata failover ensured by the DirectorBlade. Panasas' ActiveImage widgetry
supports 32,000 image snapshots. It captures only changes from the previous
Panasas has tweaked its
object-based ActiveScale Operating Environment in support of the 5000. Now in
its third generation, it includes rapid recover to pre-emptively replace
failing blades and promises no application downtime for upgrades.
The guys who can benefit
from a unified storage fabric include financial risk analysis, bioinformatics,
EDA, computational fluid dynamics and special effects animation creators,
pretty much the guys it's been servicing.
Meanwhile Panasas also has in hand the ActiveStor 3000,
basically an upgrade bound for the batch HPC market. It claims the thing offers
the best price/performance out there and starts at $55,000. Like the 5000, it
can hold 100TB in a rack with a performance of 4 Gb/s. Cache is limited to
512MB per blade and it too will be run by ActiveScale 3.0. Multiple cabinet can
be configured into a storage cluster than runs into the petabytes.
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