Spectra Logic Finds Success in HPC Market Focus

By Michael Feldman

August 25, 2009

Protecting data is probably one of the more mundane tasks of the datacenter administrator. That’s one reason why storage maker Spectra Logic has not exactly become a household name. The company specializes in tape and disk storage systems for data backups and archives. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Spectra Logic has been around for nearly 30 years, serving mid-sized and big enterprise users with a need for mission-critical data protection and HSM (Hierarchical Storage Management). But within the last 18 months, the company has put a special focus on high performance computing customers.

In particular, Spectra Logic wants to become the archive storage vendor of choice for large HPC installations, which typically need to manage petabytes of data. The company has a good start in making this a reality. Today their products are in 7 of the 10 largest TOP500 supercomputing sites, including the DOE national labs at Los Alamos, Sandia, and Argonne. In April, the company displaced Sun Microsystems at NASA Ames, replacing the 10 StorageTek 9310 silos with two of its top-of-the-line T950 tape library systems (and in the process, freeing up 1,400 square feet of space). It also has a presence at approximately half of the NSF TeraGrid sites and is looking to expand to the remaining half.

Spectra’s entry into HPC was mainly an outgrowth of its federal government business, which represents about a third of the company’s revenue. Over the years, it established accounts in essentially all US federal agencies. Its segue into the HPC side of these organizations was a natural one since many of these same agencies maintain in-house supercomputing infrastructure. Spectra also has HPC customers in the commercial space, in both the financial services sector and the oil and gas industry.

The company also maintains a customer advisory panel, and according to Molly Rector, Spectra Logic’s vice president for product management, 50 percent of the members are HPC users. The HPC group is helping Spectra guide its multi-year roadmap so that future storage product capabilities satisfy the demands of the supercomputing systems being planned for the early part of the next decade.

The competition in the archive and backup business is spread across many storage vendors, but at the top end, it is more restricted. According to Rector, their main rivals for high end tape storage are Sun Microsystems (StorageTek products) and IBM. In the 90s, StorageTek dominated the big tape archive space. With its acquisition by Sun Microsystems and now Sun’s acquisition by Oracle, the StorageTek story just seems to be getting more uncertain. Rector thinks customers are starting to look for alternatives and is hoping that the recent NASA AMES win is just the start of that trend.

Right now Spectra is also enjoying some of the advantages of being a privately-held company. Since it doesn’t have shareholders to satisfy, it has more freedom with investments and company strategy. “Being a private held, smaller company, we have a lot more flexibility to architect and design our products to meet unique customer needs,” says Rector. There’s probably some truth in that, given that IT companies that are fully exposed to Wall Street expectations have often struggled to evolve their product offerings, especially during market downturns.

Spectra has also managed to avoid being the target of a buyout. Last week the company reported its third consecutive year of profits, and a 12 percent increase, quarter over quarter. Spectra attributed the positive results to higher sales of the company’s very large and medium-sized tape libraries. Its main markets — HPC, media and entertainment, and federal government — have been among the most recession-proof.

If the company has a weakness in the HPC space, it’s in its partnerships. Currently, SGI is the only system vendor reselling Spectra’s tape storage gear for this market. The remainder is being sold directly via Spectra’s own sales force, which consists of about three dozen individuals. “Usually in these big HPC sites, it is our resources that are selling to them,” says Rector. Without a lot of company name recognition, it’s important to get system vendors on your side to take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, especially for the numerous mid-range system deployments in the commercial and academic sectors. According to Rector, the company is actively working to expand its HPC vendor partnerships.

The US is Spectra’s biggest market, but the company also maintains offices in Europe, where it has a handful of HPC deployments in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and France. Spectra also has deployments in Asia*.

At the big national lab HPC sites, Spectra is mainly selling its tape storage gear (T50e through T950) for nearline archive storage, that is, storage that is less frequently used than primary disk storage, but needs to be online for relatively quick access. For these big installations, the nearline storage will typically sit behind a DataDirect primary storage tier. The Spectra storage is slower, but denser, and not nearly as expensive to run power consumption-wise.

Spectra’s newer storage offerings, the disk-based nTier product line, have been deployed for some finance and oil & gas HPC applications, but have yet to make it to the big government supercomputing sites. The obvious advantage of disk-based archive storage is faster access time, but when paired with a tape-based archive system and a Hierarchical Storage Management (HSM) application, users can realize a lot more flexibility in managing their data.

Spectra’s latest solution integrates disk- and tape-based archive/backup hardware with HSM and deduplication technology via its BlueScale management software. Since deduplication basically substitutes a pointer for redundant data, it typically is able to offer a 15:1 or better compression ratio, depending on the dataset. That means that not only can you store 15 times as much data on the media, but also you can effectively send 15 times as much data across a network. Rector says they are starting to see some traction for deduplication with commercial HPC customers that maintain big tape archives in a central repository. The idea is that remote site data can be sent to the central archive very efficiently, since duplicated data doesn’t need to be sent at all, just accounted for. All this can take place transparently once the policies are in place.

Spectra has also added features to the latest BlueScale software to make tape administration less labor intensive. To that end, version 10.6 adds a handful of new capabilities that enable tapes to behave more like disk arrays, including “hot spare” drives for remote failover, proactive notification of storage components reaching their lifetime thresholds, and auto-discovery of new media. In disk storage as well as other areas of the datacenter, replacing human administration with management software has become a universal trend driven by economics. “Our development goal is that the expectations you have of your disk, you should have of your tape as well,” says Rector. “Those get closer and closer together all the time.”

* The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Spectra was not present in the Asian market.

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!

ExxonMobil, NCSA, Cray Scale Reservoir Simulation to 700,000+ Processors

February 17, 2017

In a scaling breakthrough for oil and gas discovery, ExxonMobil geoscientists report they have harnessed the power of 717,000 processors – the equivalent of 22,000 32-processor computers – to run complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models. Read more…

By Doug Black

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Object Storage is the Ideal Storage Method for CME Companies

The communications, media, and entertainment (CME) sector is experiencing a massive paradigm shift driven by rising data volumes and the demand for high-performance data analytics. Read more…

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 16, 2017)

February 16, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Alexander Named Dep. Dir. of Brookhaven Computational Initiative

February 15, 2017

Francis Alexander, a physicist with extensive management and leadership experience in computational science research, has been named Deputy Director of the Computational Science Initiative at the U.S. Read more…

Here’s What a Neural Net Looks Like On the Inside

February 15, 2017

Ever wonder what the inside of a machine learning model looks like? Today Graphcore released fascinating images that show how the computational graph concept maps to a new graph processor and graph programming framework it’s creating. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Cray Posts Best-Ever Quarter, Visibility Still Limited

February 10, 2017

On its Wednesday earnings call, Cray announced the largest revenue quarter in the company’s history and the second-highest revenue year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Cloud Startup Launches ‘App Store’ for HPC Workflows

February 9, 2017

“Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

KNUPATH Hermosa-based Commercial Boards Expected in Q1 2017

December 15, 2016

Last June tech start-up KnuEdge emerged from stealth mode to begin spreading the word about its new processor and fabric technology that’s been roughly a decade in the making. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

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