Panasas Takes Parallel Storage to the Next Level

By Nicole Hemsoth

November 10, 2010

In the midst of a management and business strategy revamp, Panasas is launching PAS 12, its newest parallel storage system. PAS, which stands for Panasas ActiveStor, is the company’s flagship NAS storage line meant to serve HPC and similar performance-critical enterprise applications. PAS 12 is the fourth generation of the product, and is being touted as “the world’s fastest parallel storage system.”

PAS 12 rack

Like its predecessors, PAS 12 is targeting data-rich high performance computing applications, in particular, seismic analysis, CFD, bio/pharm research apps, and manufacturing design.

Like its predecessors (PAS 7, 8, and 9) PAS 12 uses the same plug-and-play storage blade architecture and features the company’s home-grown PanFS parallel file system. But the newest entrant boasts much better I/O bandwidth, metadata performance, scalability, as well as some features that make it a more capable players in the datacenter.

It’s not the cheapest storage solution on the market by any means. PAS 12 is offered in modular configurations starting at 40 TB of storage for $110,000 in a 4U chassis (one director blade plus 10 storage blades). A single director blade can be had for $30,000 if you want to incorporate some PAS 12 functionality into existing PAS set-ups. And there is a good reason to do just that, which I’ll get to in a moment.

First to the numbers. Each 4U storage chassis delivers 1.5 GB/sec of throughput, which works out to 15 GB/sec per rack. Fully-scaled to 10 racks, a PAS 12 system provides a whopping 1.5 TB/sec of I/O. That represents a 2.5-fold performance increase over the PAS 8 system introduced in 2009. NFS performance is getting a big boost as well, with IOPS increasing from 3,500 to 7,000, and read and write bandwidth soaring from 70 and 80 MB/sec up to 300 and 450 MB/sec, respectively. All of this is made possible by moving to beefier Intel Xeon “Nehalem”-based storage blades, which exploit the more powerful 64-bit processors and additional memory.

Storage capacity is getting a nice increase as well. PAS 12 scales from 40 TB (one 4U box) up to 4 PB (10 racks). That means you could build a 4 petabyte file system under a single global namespace. Those numbers will bump up as drive capacities increase beyond 2 TB. And since PAS 12 has moved to a 64-bit architecture, the new system will be able to directly address all those extra bytes.

Metadata performance is also getting a big boost — 2.5 times that of the previous PAS technology. That’s especially important to many HPC applications that tend to bottleneck around metadata access. Better yet, customers who own existing PAS gear can slide in a PAS 12 director blade seamlessly and get the metadata performance boost instantly.

One new capability that Panasas is touting is its “Object RAID” feature. Basically, the RAID protection has been integrated into the PanFS operating system, precluding the need to include a separate RAID controller. The RAID integration turbo-charges the system’s parallel rebuild performance, which Panasas claims is the best in the industry.

Another new feature in PAS 12 is the addition of user quotas, which allows an IT administrator to parcel out storage capacity and institute billing on a per user basis. The idea here is to be able to treat the storage as a central resource for multiple computing systems, perhaps even a whole datacenter — less than a cloud, but more than a silo.

This last feature points to the company’s intended new direction, which is to broaden its reach beyond the traditional HPC space, or at least beyond the HPC market segments that Panasas has been especially strong in. Part of this strategy shift began last April when the company brought in Faye Pairman as president and chief executive officer. In fact, the whole management staff is transitioning to a more business-focused bunch. “Panasas is in the process of building a new management team, literally at all levels of the company — CEO, marketing, sales, engineering… everything,” says Panasas chief marketing officer Barbara Murphy, who herself came on-board just three months ago.

According to Murphy, the immediate goal is to stay focused on HPC, but the longer-term vision is to begin penetrating more deeply into the commercial enterprise space. Currently about 30 percent of the company’s revenue comes from the energy sector (oil and gas applications) and another 30 percent from the government (mostly at research labs). The other 40 percent is strewn across universities, aerospace, finance, manufacturing, automotive, and bio/pharma.

In some cases, they are very thinly spread across these other segments. A good example is the aerospace sector, where Panasas can claim just a single customer: Boeing. Murphy says they just haven’t scaled that success and actively gone after other aerospace customers such as, for example, Airbus or the European Space Agency.

To do that, she says, they’re going to have to turn on the marketing machine and get away from relying almost solely on a direct sales model. “I think it’s very normal for an early-stage company to be very engineering and sales driven,” says Murphy. “It’s taking that success and bringing that to a broader audience.”

Educating the customer on how the parallel storage technology fits into their business is the other element to this. During a recent engagement with a hedge fund group from a major bank, Panasas found out that the developers there spent a great deal of time fine-tuning their Monte Carlo simulation to deal with the storage I/O bottleneck. Effectively the hedge fund group had to compromise the fidelity of the algorithm so that they could get an answer back in time to make an investment. They weren’t aware that parallel storage technology could address that bottleneck. “For them, this a breakthrough technology and a complete paradigm shift,” explains Murphy.

Despite those challenges, Panasas has managed to maintain a strong balance sheet (or so they say — being a private company, they have never offered up specific profit/loss figures). But according to the company, sales have been growing for five consecutive years, with 50 percent year-over-year revenue growth in FY10. They currently claim 300 active customers in more than 50 countries, and have increased the customer base by 50 percent since 2009. Those are enviable numbers for any company, but especially during some of the most challenging economic times in decades.

Scaling that success into a profitable long-term business is the next phase for Panasas. With an established customer base and cutting-edge parallel storage technology, it certainly seems to have the fundamentals in place.

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 half-petaflops research supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is built to run artificial intelligence (AI) workloads and, as part 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 half-petaflops research supercomputer, named Genius, at Flemish research university KU Leuven. The system is built 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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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