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!

ESnet Now Moving More Than 1 Petabyte/wk

December 12, 2017

Optimizing ESnet (Energy Sciences Network), the world's fastest network for science, is an ongoing process. Recently a two-year collaboration by ESnet users – the Petascale DTN Project – achieved its ambitious goal t Read more…

HPC-as-a-Service Finds Toehold in Iceland

December 11, 2017

While high-demand workloads (e.g., bitcoin mining) can overheat data center cooling capabilities, at least one data center infrastructure provider has announced an HPC-as-a-service offering that features 100 percent fre Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be carefully woven together by people to create the computational c Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Explore the Origins of Space with COSMOS and Memory-Driven Computing

From the formation of black holes to the origins of space, data is the key to unlocking the secrets of the early universe. Read more…

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit and Sierra. The new AC922 server pairs two Power9 CPUs with f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be care Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Spins Cycle Computing into Core Azure Product

December 5, 2017

Last August, cloud giant Microsoft acquired HPC cloud orchestration pioneer Cycle Computing. Since then the focus has been on integrating Cycle’s organization Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE In-Memory Platform Comes to COSMOS

November 30, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is on a mission to accelerate space research. In August, it sent the first commercial-off-the-shelf HPC system into space for testing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Cluster Competition: Who Won and Why? Results Analyzed and Over-Analyzed

November 28, 2017

Everyone by now knows that Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU) took home the highest LINPACK Award and the Overall Championship from the recently concluded SC17 Student Cluster Competition. We also already know how the teams did in the Highest LINPACK and Highest HPCG competitions, with Nanyang grabbing bragging rights for both benchmarks. Read more…

By Dan Olds

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

SC Bids Farewell to Denver, Heads to Dallas for 30th Anniversary

November 17, 2017

After a jam-packed four-day expo and intensive six-day technical program, SC17 has wrapped up another successful event that brought together nearly 13,000 visit Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

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

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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