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!

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in what has become an overwhelmingly two-socket landscape in the d Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of quantum. This week, Microsoft took the next step in advanci Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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…

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…

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

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in wha Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of 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

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

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

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

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