In the Midst of a Recession, Panasas Comes Out Swinging

By Michael Feldman

April 22, 2009

Most storage vendors were nervous about what lay ahead in 2009, and Panasas was no exception. In 2008, spending on IT infrastructure dipped as the recession forced many companies to scale back on capital expenditures. The good news for Panasas is that the customer base for the company’s HPC storage products is heavily skewed toward sectors that rely on high-tech infrastructure to fulfill their mission — aerospace, energy, manufacturing, semiconductors, life sciences, financial services, and government supercomputing. These customers are continuing to pour money into research and development. A recent report by the Wall Street Journal found that the most innovation-driven firms were holding the line on R&D spending, even as they slashed payroll and overall capital expenditures.

As a result, Panasas managed to grow revenues in the first quarter of 2009, and even expanded its customer base 25 percent year over year. Panasas was also fortunate in completing a $25 million round of funding last year before the recession put a damper on venture capital. According to Panasas VP of Marketing Larry Jones, the company is running “cash flow neutral” right now, and with money in the bank, they feel confident they will weather the current economic downturn.

With that as a backdrop, today Panasas introduced a revamped portfolio of its HPC storage products: the ActiveStor Series 7, 8 and 9. The three new products continue the Panasas model of offering high performance storage combined with enterprise-like availability and manageability. They’re not likely to be the cheapest HPC storage out there, but the company believes the HPC market, especially in the commercial segment, is looking for ease-of-use on top of high performance. “That’s kind of where we see the sweet spot for Panasas,” explained Jones.

The new offerings replace the older ActiveStor products and span three price-performance levels: Series 7 is positioned as entry level HPC storage for decent performance at low cost per GB; Series 8 is the heart of the product line offering high performance and manageability; and Series 9 represents the highest performance, offering both high IOPS and low latency. The chart below summarizes the specs for each product line on a per storage module basis. For a rack, multiply the performance and capacity numbers by 10.
Panasas lineup
The Series 9 product is the company’s top-of-the-line offering, and introduces a three-tier storage blade architecture. At the outermost level is the SATA tier, which consists of a 2 TB 7200 RPM SATA drive and is no different from the hardware in the Series 7 and 8 products. The middle tier is where the fun begins. It consists of a 32 GB SLC Solid State Disk (SSD) and is used to accelerate I/O by holding small files and metadata. The average latency on the SSD tier is 100 microseconds — 100 times faster than the SATA drive. At the innermost level is 4 GB of RAM, which is used to aggregate writes for the SSD, store key metadata, and perform aggressive read-ahead. Latency for RAM is on the order of 100 nanoseconds.

The storage tiers are managed by the ActiveScale software, so internal I/O is transparent to end users and administrators. By integrating the different storage technologies into a blade, Panasas was able to achieve as much as a 10-fold performance increase over SATA alone. In particular, thanks to the SSD device, the Series 9 hardware can deliver nearly twice the I/O operations per second (IOPS) compared to Series 8, which lacks the flash technology.

The IOPS metric usually reflects how well a storage system will perform random I/O on small chunks of data — an important capability for many HPC applications. Pumping random read/write performance takes a more sophisticated approach that just adding raw bandwidth for streaming I/O. Isilon recently introduced its S-series storage to go after more IOPS, but it did it more traditionally: with high performance SAS drives and lots of memory cache (16GB per module) instead of SSD flash.

“We looked at that approach — in fact we benchmarked that approach,” said Jones. According to him, they determined that the three-tiered design had two big advantages: it was faster and it was much less expensive. Even though the SSD flash is about 100 times as expensive as SATA storage on a per byte basis, by using a relatively small amount, the cost of the whole system will only be about 40 percent more than a SATA-only solution.

Panasas is betting that its Series 9 offering will open a few doors for the company in areas where random I/O is paramount. Credit risk analysis, genomics, EDA, satellite imaging, animation, and oil and gas all have applications that depend upon large numbers of relatively small files. For data-intensive apps, overall productivity often hinges on how fast the I/O performs, so delivering on IOPS can offer a lot of value to customers.

All of the new storage blades are cross-compatible with each other and even older Panasas gear. They can be mixed into Panasas storage racks according to price-performance preferences and deployment strategies. List prices range from about $2,000 to $3,600 per terabyte for Series 7 and 8, respectively. Both products are available immediately, either through Panasas or its resellers. Series 9 is expected to be available in Q3, and because SSD pricing is in a state of flux, final pricing will be determined at launch time.

Complete software support of all three products will be folded into ActiveScale 3.4. The new version adds a disk migration utility that can transparently move data from older storage blades to new blades. This takes place in the background, so there’s no down time for production work. In addition, an asynchronous replication capability was included to improve disaster recovery, backup consolidation and content distribution. Panasas also slipped in some performance tweaks as well as a number of other features. ActiveScale 3.4 is expected to be released in Q3.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

NSF Project Sets Up First Machine Learning Cyberinfrastructure – CHASE-CI

July 25, 2017

Earlier this month, the National Science Foundation issued a $1 million grant to Larry Smarr, director of Calit2, and a group of his colleagues to create a community infrastructure in support of machine learning research Read more…

By John Russell

DARPA Continues Investment in Post-Moore’s Technologies

July 24, 2017

The U.S. military long ago ceded dominance in electronics innovation to Silicon Valley, the DoD-backed powerhouse that has driven microelectronic generation for decades. With Moore's Law clearly running out of steam, the Read more…

By George Leopold

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in 2017 with scale-up production for enterprise datacenters and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Servers Deliver High Performance Remote Visualization

Whether generating seismic simulations, locating new productive oil reservoirs, or constructing complex models of the earth’s subsurface, energy, oil, and gas (EO&G) is a highly data-driven industry. Read more…

Trinity Supercomputer’s Haswell and KNL Partitions Are Merged

July 19, 2017

Trinity supercomputer’s two partitions – one based on Intel Xeon Haswell processors and the other on Xeon Phi Knights Landing – have been fully integrated are now available for use on classified work in the Nationa Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

NSF Project Sets Up First Machine Learning Cyberinfrastructure – CHASE-CI

July 25, 2017

Earlier this month, the National Science Foundation issued a $1 million grant to Larry Smarr, director of Calit2, and a group of his colleagues to create a comm Read more…

By John Russell

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Continues HPC, AI Push

July 19, 2017

Summer is well under way, but the so-called summertime slowdown, linked with hot temperatures and longer vacations, does not seem to have impacted Fujitsu's out Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Use DNA to Store and Retrieve Digital Movie

July 18, 2017

From abacus to pencil and paper to semiconductor chips, the technology of computing has always been an ever-changing target. The human brain is probably the com Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale FY18 Budget – The Next Step

July 17, 2017

On July 12, 2017, the U.S. federal budget for its Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) took its next step forward. On that day, the full Appropriations Committee Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Women in HPC Luncheon Shines Light on Female-Friendly Hiring Practices

July 13, 2017

The second annual Women in HPC luncheon was held on June 20, 2017, during the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The luncheon provid Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Satellite Advances, NSF Computation Power Rapid Mapping of Earth’s Surface

July 13, 2017

New satellite technologies have completely changed the game in mapping and geographical data gathering, reducing costs and placing a new emphasis on time series Read more…

By Ken Chiacchia and Tiffany Jolley

Intel Skylake: Xeon Goes from Chip to Platform

July 13, 2017

With yesterday’s New York unveiling of the new “Skylake” Xeon Scalable processors, Intel made multiple runs at multiple competitive threats and strategic Read more…

By Doug Black

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This