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!

Geospatial Data Research Leverages GPUs

August 17, 2017

MapD Technologies, the GPU-accelerated database specialist, said it is working with university researchers on leveraging graphics processors to advance geospatial analytics. The San Francisco-based company is collabor Read more…

By George Leopold

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 Centers (IPCCs) has resulted in a new Big Data Center (BDC) that Read more…

By Linda Barney

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 week the cloud giant released deeplearn.js as part of that in Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Leveraging Deep Learning for Fraud Detection

Advancements in computing technologies and the expanding use of e-commerce platforms have dramatically increased the risk of fraud for financial services companies and their customers. Read more…

Spoiler Alert: Glimpse Next Week’s Solar Eclipse Via Simulation from TACC, SDSC, and NASA

August 17, 2017

Can’t wait to see next week’s solar eclipse? You can at least catch glimpses of what scientists expect it will look like. A team from Predictive Science Inc. (PSI), based in San Diego, working with Stampede2 at the Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Bolsters Azure With Cloud HPC Deal

August 15, 2017

Microsoft has acquired cloud computing software vendor Cycle Computing in a move designed to bring orchestration tools along with high-end computing access capabilities to the cloud. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Ships Supercomputer to Space Station, Final Destination Mars

August 14, 2017

With a manned mission to Mars on the horizon, the demand for space-based supercomputing is at hand. Today HPE and NASA sent the first off-the-shelf HPC system i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD EPYC Video Takes Aim at Intel’s Broadwell

August 14, 2017

Let the benchmarking begin. Last week, AMD posted a YouTube video in which one of its EPYC-based systems outperformed a ‘comparable’ Intel Broadwell-based s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Thrives in Cancer Moonshot

August 8, 2017

The U.S. War on Cancer, certainly a worthy cause, is a collection of programs stretching back more than 40 years and abiding under many banners. The latest is t Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Raises the Bar for Distributed Deep Learning

August 8, 2017

IBM is announcing today an enhancement to its PowerAI software platform aimed at facilitating the practical scaling of AI models on today’s fastest GPUs. Scal Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Storage Breakthrough Paves Way for 330TB Tape Cartridges

August 3, 2017

IBM announced yesterday a new record for magnetic tape storage that it says will keep tape storage density on a Moore's law-like path far into the next decade. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Stuffs a Petaflops of Machine Intelligence into 20-Node Rack

August 1, 2017

With its Radeon “Vega” Instinct datacenter GPUs and EPYC “Naples” server chips entering the market this summer, AMD has positioned itself for a two-head Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo 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

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Clears Path to 5nm with Silicon Nanosheets

June 5, 2017

Two years since announcing the industry’s first 7nm node test chip, IBM and its research alliance partners GlobalFoundries and Samsung have developed a proces Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

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