IBM Demos Record-Breaking Parallel File System Performance

By Michael Feldman

July 22, 2011

A research group at IBM has come up with a prototype parallel storage system that they claim is an order of magnitude faster than anything demonstrated before. Using a souped-up version of IBM’s General Parallel File System (GPFS) and a set of Violin Memory’s solid-state storage arrays, the system was able to scan 10 billion files in 43 minutes. They say that’s 37 times faster than the last time IBM topped out GPFS performance in 2007.

The idea behind 10-billion files scans is demonstrate GPFS can keep pace with the enormous flood of data that organizations are amassing. According to IDC, there will be 60 exabytes of digitized data this year and these data stores are expected to increase 60 percent per year. In a nutshell, we’re heading for a zettabyte world.

But it’s not just the aggregate size of storage. Individual businesses and government organizations will soon be expected to actively manage 10 to 100 billion files in a single system. The HPCS DARPA program requires a trillion files in a single system.

That’s certainly beyond the capabilities of storage systems today. Even parallel file systems designed for extreme scalability, like GPFS and Lustre currently top out at about 2 billion files. But the limit is not storage capacity, it’s performance.

While hard drive capacity is increasing at about 25 to 40 percent per year, performance is more in the range of 5 to 10 percent. That’s a problem for all types of storage I/O, but especially for operations on metadata. Metadata is the information that describes file attributes, like name, size, data type, permissions, etc. This information, while small in size, has to be accessed often and quickly — basically every time you do something with a file. When you have billions of files being actively managed, the metadata becomes a choke point.

Typically metadata itself doesn’t require lots of capacity. To store the attributes for 10 billion files, you only need four 2TB disks; they just aren’t fast enough for this level of metadata processing. To get the needed I/O bandwidth, you’d actually need around 200 disk drives. (According to IBM, their 2007 scanning demo of 1 billion files under GPFS required 20 drives.) Using lots of disks to aggregate I/O for metadata is a rather inefficient approach, considering the amount of power, cooling, floor space and system administration associated with disk arrays.

The obvious solution is solid-state storage, and that is indeed what the IBM researchers used for their demo this week. In this case, they used hardware from Violin Memory, a maker of flash storage arrays. According to the IBM researchers, the Violin gear provided the attributes needed for the extreme levels of file scan performance: high bandwidth; low I/O access time, with good transaction rate at medium sized blocks; sustained performance with mixing different I/O access patterns; multiple access paths to shared storage, and reliable data protection in case of NAND failure.

When I asked the IBM team why they opted for Violin in preference to other flash memory offerings, they told me the Violin storage met all of these requirements as well or better than any other SSD approach they had seen. “For example, SSDs on a PCI-e card will not address the high availability requirement unless it replicates with another device,” they said. “This will effectively increase the solution cost. Many SSDs we sampled and evaluated do not sustain performance when mixing different I/O access patterns.”

The storage setup for the demo consisted of four Violin Memory 3205 arrays, with a total raw capacity of 10 TB (7.2 GB usable), and aggregate I/O bandwidth of 5 GB/second. The four arrays can deliver on the order of a million IOPS with 4K blocks, with a typical write latency of 20us and read latency of 90us.

Driving the storage were ten IBM 3650 M2 dual-socket x86 servers, each with 32 GB of memory. The 3650 cluster was connected with InfiniBand, with the Violin boxes hooked to the servers via PCIe.

All 6.5 TB of metadata for the 10 billion files was mapped to the four 3U Violin arrays. No disk drives were required since, for demonstration purposes, the files themselves contained no data. To provide a more or less typical file system environment, the files were spread out across 10 million directories. Scaled up to 100 billion files, the researchers estimated that just half a rack of flash storage arrays would be needed for the metadata, compared to five to ten racks of disks required for the same performance.

It’s noteworthy that the researchers selected Violin gear for this particular demo, especially considering that IBM is currently shipping Fusion-io PCI-based flash drives with its System X servers. Even though the work describe here was just a research project, with no timetable for commercialization, it’s not too big a stretch to imagine future IBM systems with Violin technology folded in. The larger lesson though is that solid-state storage is likely to figure prominently in future storage system, IBM or otherwise, when billions of files is are in the mix.

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!

Q&A with Altair CEO James Scapa, an HPCwire Person to Watch in 2021

May 14, 2021

Chairman, CEO and co-founder of Altair James R. Scapa closed several acquisitions for the company in 2020, including the purchase and integration of Univa and Ellexus. Scapa founded Altair more than 35 years ago with two Read more…

HLRS HPC Helps to Model Muscle Movements

May 13, 2021

The growing scale of HPC is allowing simulation of more and more complex systems at greater detail than ever before, particularly in the biological research spheres. Now, researchers at the University of Stuttgart are le Read more…

Behind the Met Office’s Procurement of a Billion-Dollar Microsoft System

May 13, 2021

The UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, caused shockwaves of curiosity a few weeks ago when it formally announced that its forthcoming billion-dollar supercomputer – expected to be the most powerful weather and climate-focused supercomputer in the world when it launches in 2022... Read more…

AMD, GlobalFoundries Commit to $1.6 Billion Wafer Supply Deal

May 13, 2021

AMD plans to purchase $1.6 billion worth of wafers from GlobalFoundries in the 2022 to 2024 timeframe, the chipmaker revealed today (May 13) in an SEC filing. In the face of global semiconductor shortages and record-high demand, AMD is renegotiating its Wafer Supply Agreement and bumping up capacity. Read more…

Hyperion Offers Snapshot of Quantum Computing Market

May 13, 2021

The nascent quantum computer (QC) market will grow 27 percent annually (CAGR) reaching $830 million in 2024 according to an update provided today by analyst firm Hyperion Research at the HPC User Forum being held this we Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Numerical weather prediction on AWS Graviton2

The Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model is a numerical weather prediction (NWP) system designed to serve both atmospheric research and operational forecasting needs. Read more…

Hyperion: HPC Server Market Ekes 1 Percent Gain in 2020, Storage Poised for ‘Tipping Point’

May 12, 2021

The HPC User Forum meeting taking place virtually this week (May 11-13) kicked off with Hyperion Research’s market update, covering the 2020 period. Although the HPC server market had been facing a 6.7 percent COVID-re Read more…

Behind the Met Office’s Procurement of a Billion-Dollar Microsoft System

May 13, 2021

The UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, caused shockwaves of curiosity a few weeks ago when it formally announced that its forthcoming billion-dollar supercomputer – expected to be the most powerful weather and climate-focused supercomputer in the world when it launches in 2022... Read more…

AMD, GlobalFoundries Commit to $1.6 Billion Wafer Supply Deal

May 13, 2021

AMD plans to purchase $1.6 billion worth of wafers from GlobalFoundries in the 2022 to 2024 timeframe, the chipmaker revealed today (May 13) in an SEC filing. In the face of global semiconductor shortages and record-high demand, AMD is renegotiating its Wafer Supply Agreement and bumping up capacity. Read more…

Hyperion Offers Snapshot of Quantum Computing Market

May 13, 2021

The nascent quantum computer (QC) market will grow 27 percent annually (CAGR) reaching $830 million in 2024 according to an update provided today by analyst fir Read more…

Hyperion: HPC Server Market Ekes 1 Percent Gain in 2020, Storage Poised for ‘Tipping Point’

May 12, 2021

The HPC User Forum meeting taking place virtually this week (May 11-13) kicked off with Hyperion Research’s market update, covering the 2020 period. Although Read more…

IBM Debuts Qiskit Runtime for Quantum Computing; Reports Dramatic Speed-up

May 11, 2021

In conjunction with its virtual Think event, IBM today introduced an enhanced Qiskit Runtime Software for quantum computing, which it says demonstrated 120x spe Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Fast Pass Through (Some of) the Quantum Landscape with ORNL’s Raphael Pooser

May 7, 2021

In a rather remarkable way, and despite the frequent hype, the behind-the-scenes work of developing quantum computing has dramatically accelerated in the past f Read more…

IBM Research Debuts 2nm Test Chip with 50 Billion Transistors

May 6, 2021

IBM Research today announced the successful prototyping of the world's first 2 nanometer chip, fabricated with silicon nanosheet technology on a standard 300mm Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from Julialang.org. I Read more…

CERN Is Betting Big on Exascale

April 1, 2021

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) involves 23 countries, 15,000 researchers, billions of dollars a year, and the biggest machine in the worl Read more…

HPE Launches Storage Line Loaded with IBM’s Spectrum Scale File System

April 6, 2021

HPE today launched a new family of storage solutions bundled with IBM’s Spectrum Scale Erasure Code Edition parallel file system (description below) and featu Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

Saudi Aramco Unveils Dammam 7, Its New Top Ten Supercomputer

January 21, 2021

By revenue, oil and gas giant Saudi Aramco is one of the largest companies in the world, and it has historically employed commensurate amounts of supercomputing Read more…

Quantum Computer Start-up IonQ Plans IPO via SPAC

March 8, 2021

IonQ, a Maryland-based quantum computing start-up working with ion trap technology, plans to go public via a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) merger a Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

AMD Launches Epyc ‘Milan’ with 19 SKUs for HPC, Enterprise and Hyperscale

March 15, 2021

At a virtual launch event held today (Monday), AMD revealed its third-generation Epyc “Milan” CPU lineup: a set of 19 SKUs -- including the flagship 64-core, 280-watt 7763 part --  aimed at HPC, enterprise and cloud workloads. Notably, the third-gen Epyc Milan chips achieve 19 percent... Read more…

Can Deep Learning Replace Numerical Weather Prediction?

March 3, 2021

Numerical weather prediction (NWP) is a mainstay of supercomputing. Some of the first applications of the first supercomputers dealt with climate modeling, and Read more…

Livermore’s El Capitan Supercomputer to Debut HPE ‘Rabbit’ Near Node Local Storage

February 18, 2021

A near node local storage innovation called Rabbit factored heavily into Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s decision to select Cray’s proposal for its CORAL-2 machine, the lab’s first exascale-class supercomputer, El Capitan. Details of this new storage technology were revealed... Read more…

African Supercomputing Center Inaugurates ‘Toubkal,’ Most Powerful Supercomputer on the Continent

February 25, 2021

Historically, Africa hasn’t exactly been synonymous with supercomputing. There are only a handful of supercomputers on the continent, with few ranking on the Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

The History of Supercomputing vs. COVID-19

March 9, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic poses a greater challenge to the high-performance computing community than any before. HPCwire's coverage of the supercomputing response t Read more…

Microsoft to Provide World’s Most Powerful Weather & Climate Supercomputer for UK’s Met Office

April 22, 2021

More than 14 months ago, the UK government announced plans to invest £1.2 billion ($1.56 billion) into weather and climate supercomputing, including procuremen Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire