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!

AWS Embraces FPGAs, ‘Elastic’ GPUs

December 2, 2016

A new instance type rolled out this week by Amazon Web Services is based on customizable field programmable gate arrays that promise to strike a balance between performance and cost as emerging workloads create requirements often unmet by general-purpose processors. Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Dec. 1, 2016)

December 1, 2016

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

HPC Career Notes (Dec. 2016)

December 1, 2016

In this monthly feature, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high performance computing community. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

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

IBM and NSF Computing Pioneer Erich Bloch Dies at 91

November 30, 2016

Erich Bloch, a computational pioneer whose competitive zeal and commercial bent helped transform the National Science Foundation while he was its director, died last Friday at age 91. Bloch was a productive force to be reckoned. During his long stint at IBM prior to joining NSF Bloch spearheaded development of the “Stretch” supercomputer and IBM’s phenomenally successful System/360. Read more…

By John Russell

Pioneering Programmers Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

November 30, 2016

In an awards ceremony on November 22, President Barack Obama recognized 21 recipients with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civilian honor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Seagate-led SAGE Project Delivers Update on Exascale Goals

November 29, 2016

Roughly a year and a half after its launch, the SAGE exascale storage project led by Seagate has delivered a substantive interim report – Data Storage for Extreme Scale. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. 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

Seagate-led SAGE Project Delivers Update on Exascale Goals

November 29, 2016

Roughly a year and a half after its launch, the SAGE exascale storage project led by Seagate has delivered a substantive interim report – Data Storage for Extreme Scale. Read more…

By John Russell

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

HPE-SGI to Tackle Exascale and Enterprise Targets

November 22, 2016

At first blush, and maybe second blush too, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) purchase of SGI seems like an unambiguous win-win. SGI’s advanced shared memory technology, its popular UV product line (Hanna), deep vertical market expertise, and services-led go-to-market capability all give HPE a leg up in its drive to remake itself. Bear in mind HPE came into existence just a year ago with the split of Hewlett-Packard. The computer landscape, including HPC, is shifting with still unclear consequences. One wonders who’s next on the deal block following Dell’s recent merger with EMC. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Details AI Hardware Strategy for Post-GPU Age

November 21, 2016

Last week at SC16, Intel revealed its product roadmap for embedding its processors with key capabilities and attributes needed to take artificial intelligence (AI) to the next level. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

SC Says Farewell to Salt Lake City, See You in Denver

November 18, 2016

After an intense four-day flurry of activity (and a cold snap that brought some actual snow flurries), the SC16 show floor closed yesterday (Thursday) and the always-extensive technical program wound down today. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Why 2016 Is the Most Important Year in HPC in Over Two Decades

August 23, 2016

In 1994, two NASA employees connected 16 commodity workstations together using a standard Ethernet LAN and installed open-source message passing software that allowed their number-crunching scientific application to run on the whole “cluster” of machines as if it were a single entity. Read more…

By Vincent Natoli, Stone Ridge Technology

IBM Advances Against x86 with Power9

August 30, 2016

After offering OpenPower Summit attendees a limited preview in April, IBM is unveiling further details of its next-gen CPU, Power9, which the tech mainstay is counting on to regain market share ceded to rival Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Think Fast – Is Neuromorphic Computing Set to Leap Forward?

August 15, 2016

Steadily advancing neuromorphic computing technology has created high expectations for this fundamentally different approach to computing. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Gobbles SGI for Larger Slice of $11B HPC Pie

August 11, 2016

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced today that it will acquire rival HPC server maker SGI for $7.75 per share, or about $275 million, inclusive of cash and debt. The deal ends the seven-year reprieve that kept the SGI banner flying after Rackable Systems purchased the bankrupt Silicon Graphics Inc. for $25 million in 2009 and assumed the SGI brand. Bringing SGI into its fold bolsters HPE's high-performance computing and data analytics capabilities and expands its position... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ARM Unveils Scalable Vector Extension for HPC at Hot Chips

August 22, 2016

ARM and Fujitsu today announced a scalable vector extension (SVE) to the ARMv8-A architecture intended to enhance ARM capabilities in HPC workloads. Fujitsu is the lead silicon partner in the effort (so far) and will use ARM with SVE technology in its post K computer, Japan’s next flagship supercomputer planned for the 2020 timeframe. This is an important incremental step for ARM, which seeks to push more aggressively into mainstream and HPC server markets. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Debuts Power8 Chip with NVLink and Three New Systems

September 8, 2016

Not long after revealing more details about its next-gen Power9 chip due in 2017, IBM today rolled out three new Power8-based Linux servers and a new version of its Power8 chip featuring Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

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

Intel Launches Silicon Photonics Chip, Previews Next-Gen Phi for AI

August 18, 2016

At the Intel Developer Forum, held in San Francisco this week, Intel Senior Vice President and General Manager Diane Bryant announced the launch of Intel's Silicon Photonics product line and teased a brand-new Phi product, codenamed "Knights Mill," aimed at machine learning workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Micron, Intel Prepare to Launch 3D XPoint Memory

August 16, 2016

Micron Technology used last week’s Flash Memory Summit to roll out its new line of 3D XPoint memory technology jointly developed with Intel while demonstrating the technology in solid-state drives. Micron claimed its Quantx line delivers PCI Express (PCIe) SSD performance with read latencies at less than 10 microseconds and writes at less than 20 microseconds. Read more…

By George Leopold

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