Spectra Takes Next Step in Tape Archive Reliability

By Michael Feldman

March 22, 2011

Storage vendor Spectra Logic has added a series of data verification features to its tape library solution. The idea is to simplify archive administration and bring a new level of reliability into petascale tape storage. The capability will be built into the company’s next iteration of its BlueScale management software that will be released at the end of March.

The incorporation of disk-like data reliability has come about as tape is moving into the hard drive’s traditional territory: primary storage. But as data volumes grow, the expense and power requirements associated with disk storage becomes increasingly problematic, forcing users to offload more files to tape.

According to Molly Rector, Spectra’s vice president of marketing and product management, this shift has accelerated significantly over the last 18 months or so, as user data is growing at a rate beyond the practical limits of a disk-based system. Spectra is seeing a 45 percent annual growth rate for file data destined for online archives. That includes cloud data, digital archive data, HPC model data — ultimately any unstructured file data being moved off to tape libraries.

Especially as files systems get into the petabyte range, customers are looking to shift the majority of their data into online tape libraries, leaving only the active transactional data on the faster disks. File management frameworks like HPSS can be used to handle these really large environments and extend the native file system (like GPFS) out to tape. “You’re seeing about 90 percent of the storage sitting on tape in these environments,” says Rector.

For the larger HPC sites, this model is becoming especially common. Today NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) at Lawrence Berkeley Lab is using tape as their primary data store. In this case, they have a whopping 13 petabytes of data on tape with no secondary copy at all. For a number of applications, they’re writing directly to tape, without an intervening disk. The idea is to load the data directly from tape into computer memory, crunch the numbers for a day, a week, or whatever, and then spit the results back out to tape.

That’s more like the way mainframes used tape 20 years ago. Except this time around, the aggregate data volumes are much, much bigger. The petabyte-sized storage means users don’t want to have to make multiple copies of everything for the sake of reliability (tape media degrades over time due to moisture and dust). Instead, they want the tape system to behave like an enterprise disk, proactively notifying the proper authorities when the media is going bad so the files can be moved.

That’s essentially what Spectra’s new data integrity verification does. The software offers a three-level approach to data verification: PreScan, QuickScan and QuickScan. Each one can be turned on or off depending upon user preference.

The PreScan takes place before the tape is imported into the library in order to ensure that the media wasn’t damaged in shipment from the factory (about 1 or 2 percent of the tapes fall in this category says Rector). The idea is to prevent the user from writing to a bad tape — better to finds these things out before a production run.

Next comes QuickScan, which takes place whenever any data is written to tape. It verifies the data just written can be read back. This offers some assurance that the original data can be safely scrubbed from the disk (or flash drive or memory). A QuickScan takes just one to three minutes.

The final level is PostScan, which checks the entire tape to ensure all the sectors are readable. Essentially this is a way of automating the data integrity of the current archive, which, given the thousands of tapes involved in a typical production system, would be impractical to do manually. The scan will determine the degradation of the media, and if it has reached some pre-defined threshold, will notify the administrator.

A PostScan of one tape takes from two to three hours, which is going to tie up a drive for a good chunk time. As a result, Spectra’s BlueScale interface allow you configure the PostScan scheduling in a number of ways. For example, a user could choose to run a complete scan after a specified time period (every six months, a year, and so on) and at certain time of the day. It can also be configured to go fetch the oldest tape in the system whenever there is a drive available and run the complete scan at that point. Rector believes that’s the way most of their customers will use it.

Given the workflow and the size of the data stores, the PostScan is also more likely to be used at the large supercomputing sites rather than by Spectra’s commercial customers. In fact, Argonne National Lab and NASA Ames helped to spec out this particular capability. And a new tape library system just installed at NCSA had a hard requirement for this feature called out in the RFP.

Although the integrity features are more geared for the HPC crowd, other commercial users may find them useful as well, especially those who are socking away millions of files that need to be recalled at a moment’s notice. A good example is ESPN, which archives all their sports video. Whenever an athlete is in the news, they need to be able to tap into their multi-decade file repository for relevant material to show. And much like an HPC center, ESPN has a software team writing their own packages, in this case, custom analytics for their multimedia data. “If you didn’t know better, you’d think you were talking with Argonne National Lab,” says Rector.

Spectra, too, will be using the new integrity features in-house, even though by supercomputing standards their data set is tiny. “We’re going to run it on our own corporate data at Spectra,” explains Rector. “Our archive is going to be like 50 terabytes.”

The integrity features are built into BlueScale 11.3, which will become generally available on March 30. The new capability is free, but Spectra is recommending a tape library server upgrade for those sites with more than 5,000 tapes. The good news is that the heftier servers are also free to all customers under a service contract.

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!

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together about 30 participants from industry, government and academia t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

Imagine if all the atoms in the universe could be added up into a single number. Big number, right? Maybe the biggest number conceivable. But wait, there’s a bigger number out there. We're told that Go, the world’s Read more…

By Doug Black

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

Imagine if all the atoms in the universe could be added up into a single number. Big number, right? Maybe the biggest number conceivable. But wait, there’s a Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

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

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

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

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

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. 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 Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Cente Read more…

By Linda Barney

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