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!

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is built to run artificial intelligence (AI) workloads and, as Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Exascale System for Earth Simulation Introduced

April 23, 2018

After four years of development, the Energy Exascale Earth System Model (E3SM) will be unveiled today and released to the broader scientific community this month. The E3SM project is supported by the Department of Energy Read more…

By Staff

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

AI-Focused ‘Genius’ Supercomputer Installed at KU Leuven

April 24, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise has deployed a new approximately half-petaflops supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

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

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Leading Solution Providers

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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