Active Archives: A Way to Tame the Data Monster

By Michael Feldman

April 28, 2010

It seems like every information technology has its own industry trade group these days. The latest one to join the herd is the Active Archive Alliance, a group dedicated to pushing active archive solutions into the mainstream. The Alliance was announced this week with its founding members Compellent Technologies, FileTek, QStar Technologies, and Spectra Logic.

According to the latest IDC numbers, external storage is growing at an annual rate of 58 percent and estimated to reach a whopping 1610 exabytes by 2011. As a result, companies are scrambling to find places to keep their data, and keep it accessible. This is certainly true in HPC, where the size of datasets is growing in parallel with the computational power of supercomputers. In the enterprise, storage growth is just as epidemic. Between email, structured data of all types, multimedia files, and regulations that mandate new storage requirements, organizations are being overwhelmed.

The result is that datacenters are turning into spinning disk warehouses, with storage infrastructure gobbling up floor space, power, and IT budgets. One saving grace is that most of the data on primary storage — perhaps as much as 75 to 85 percent of it — does not need to be accessed frequently. That suggests that much of the data currently sitting on high-end disk drives can be migrated to much denser, less expensive, and less power-hungry storage systems. And that’s where active archives come in.

The definition of an active archive is a little fluid, but the Alliance defines it as a storage system that contains production data, no matter how old or infrequently accessed, that can still be retrieved online. Essentially, it’s a storage tier than sits between offline backup and primary storage. It could be based on tape or disk, but in either case the archive should be accessible through a file system, like NFS or CIFS.

It’s this last feature that is at the center of the value proposition for active archives. Mounting a file system atop such a solution makes file access transparent to users, scripts, and applications. And even if access times are greater than the millisecond-level response you get from primary storage, the underlying software and the interface is still the same.

File systems, of course, are old technology, but not in the archive arena, especially for tape-based systems. “What is new is that there are applications now available that can extend the file system to tape, whereas historically file systems have relied on disk technologies,” explains Molly Rector, vice president of marketing and product management at storage vendor Spectra Logic.

Spectra is one of the four founding members of the Active Archive Alliance and is positioning itself as the premier vendor for active archive solutions in the tape storage domain. Rector says a tape library five to 10 years ago would not have been an appropriate solution for this application, but scalability, performance, and reliability and data integrity have advanced to the point where tape-based active archives are now commercially viable.

The large HPC labs have actually been at the forefront of this technology and are leading the charge on archive tape libraries with a file system front-end. NASA Ames, for example, installed two Spectra tape libraries and increased its active archive storage capacity from 12 PB to 32 PB, recouping 1,400 square feet of datacenter space in the process. The future (2011) Blue Waters supercomputer at NCSA is also slated to include a 500 PB tape archive, fronted by a GPFS-HPSS interface.

But according to Rector, most other industries, and the majority of HPC users, are not even aware that such a capability exists. The Alliance’s mission is to drive these solutions into the mainstream datacenter, and not just for petabyte-sized datasets either. There are plenty of organizations with terabytes of infrequently accessed files, but who have run out of room on their primary storage. In genomic research environments, for example, raw genetic data is being accumulated at a rate that outpaces any reasonable NAS or SAN deployment scheme. Since much of this data is not in constant use, it would seem to be an ideal app for a tape-based archive.

Archives are not just the tale of the tape, however. The other founding Alliance members — Compellent Technologies, FileTek, and QStar Technologies — offer a mix of disk-based and tape-based archiving solutions. Even Spectra has a disk-based product set, although for now the company is focused on its tape-based offerings for active archives. Panasas, although not part of the Alliance, recently launched, PAS HC, its disk-based NAS solution for archiving and scratch storage.

Choosing between a disk-based or tape-based archive comes down to how fast you need to get at your file. In general, online tape access can run anywhere from one to several minutes, while disk archives usually can deliver a file within a few seconds. (This is substantially different from offline tape backups, which can take hours, or even days to retrieve a file.) The slower access time of tape is offset by its greater storage density and power efficiency — and in both cases, orders of magnitude greater. Media cost is also much better for tape, which tends to run about $40 per terabyte. For cheap SATA or SAS disks, it’s more like $70 per terabyte, and for enterprise Fibre Channel and SAS, $150 per terabyte.

In a perfect world, you would only have to choose a single archive media, but in the real-world, the optimal solution will probably involve a two-tiered disk-tape infrastructure. Spectra’s Rector thinks an 80/20 tape/disk split might be optimal ratio to balance cost, access performance and storage density. Disk-centric vendors like Panasas might think differently, of course.

For the time being, the Alliance will work to add more members, define the market, develop best practices, and just generally educate the user community about the value of active archive solutions. Over the next several months, the group will be generating webinars and white papers as well as showing up at the appropriate trade shows. Beyond that, once a critical mass of customers has adopted the technology, expect to see the formation of a users group.

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!

Doug Kothe on the Race to Build Exascale Applications

May 29, 2017

Ensuring there are applications ready to churn out useful science when the first U.S. exascale computers arrive in the 2021-2023 timeframe is Doug Kothe’s job Read more…

By John Russell

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 cryptocurr Read more…

By Doug Black

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

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Exploring the Three Models of Remote Visualization

The explosion of data and advancement of digital technologies are dramatically changing the way many companies do business. With the help of high performance computing (HPC) solutions and data analytics platforms, manufacturers are developing products faster, healthcare providers are improving patient care, and energy companies are improving planning, exploration, and production. Read more…

Nvidia CEO Predicts AI ‘Cambrian Explosion’

May 25, 2017

The processing power and cloud access to developer tools used to train machine-learning models are making artificial intelligence ubiquitous across computing pl Read more…

By George Leopold

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hedge Funds (with Supercomputing help) Rank First Among Investors

May 22, 2017

In case you didn’t know, The Quants Run Wall Street Now, or so says a headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. Quant-run hedge funds now control the largest Read more…

By John Russell

Doug Kothe on the Race to Build Exascale Applications

May 29, 2017

Ensuring there are applications ready to churn out useful science when the first U.S. exascale computers arrive in the 2021-2023 timeframe is Doug Kothe’s job Read more…

By John Russell

PRACEdays Reflects Europe’s HPC Commitment

May 25, 2017

More than 250 attendees and participants came together for PRACEdays17 in Barcelona last week, part of the European HPC Summit Week 2017, held May 15-19 at t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

PGAS Use will Rise on New H/W Trends, Says Reinders

May 25, 2017

If you have not already tried using PGAS, it is time to consider adding PGAS to the programming techniques you know. Partitioned Global Array Space, commonly kn Read more…

By James Reinders

Exascale Escapes 2018 Budget Axe; Rest of Science Suffers

May 23, 2017

President Trump's proposed $4.1 trillion FY 2018 budget is good for U.S. exascale computing development, but grim for the rest of science and technology spend Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Offers Supercomputing as a Service, Targets Biotechs First

May 16, 2017

Leading supercomputer vendor Cray and datacenter/cloud provider the Markley Group today announced plans to jointly deliver supercomputing as a service. The init Read more…

By John Russell

HPE’s Memory-centric The Machine Coming into View, Opens ARMs to 3rd-party Developers

May 16, 2017

Announced three years ago, HPE’s The Machine is said to be the largest R&D program in the venerable company’s history, one that could be progressing tow Read more…

By Doug Black

What’s Up with Hyperion as It Transitions From IDC?

May 15, 2017

If you’re wondering what’s happening with Hyperion Research – formerly the IDC HPC group – apparently you are not alone, says Steve Conway, now senior V Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

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

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

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

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

Since our first formal product releases of OSPRay and OpenSWR libraries in 2016, CPU-based Software Defined Visualization (SDVis) has achieved wide-spread adopt Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Last week, Google reported that its custom ASIC Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) was 15-30x faster for inferencing workloads than Nvidia's K80 GPU (see our coverage Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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 ne Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

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 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 w Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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 Read more…

By Steve Campbell

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 Eng Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

As China continues to prove its supercomputing mettle via the Top500 list and the forward march of its ambitious plans to stand up an exascale machine by 2020, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu's Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural networ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of "quantum supremacy," researchers are stretching the limits of today's most advance Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" process Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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