Spectra Tape Plays to Cloud, Big Data, HPC Communities

By Tiffany Trader

November 4, 2011

In the past decade, the prevailing wisdom would have you believe that tape storage was a dead or dying breed, soon-to-be usurped by the sexier, speedier disk. Now that particular hype cycle has run its course and logic and common sense have returned to the storage conversation, prodded no doubt by a the latest buzzwords du jour, big data and cloud computing. At any rate, there’s no doubt that tape storage is as relevant as ever, and perhaps more relevant than ever. Indeed, this was the prevailing theme circulated by a group of prominent storage analysts at a recent Spectra Logic event in Boulder, Colo.

Spectra's expanded campusIn 2009 Spectra celebrated its 30-year anniversary, and like its storage capacity, Spectra is also expanding. Their fiscal 2011 figures reflected a 30 percent YoY growth overall and Spectra’s enterprise tape libraries posted revenue growth of 49 percent in the same period. Growth like that explains why the company recently outgrew their office, lab and manufacturing space for the second time in three years. But they won’t be cramped for long; they just purchased a 55,000-square-foot building in downtown Boulder next door to the 80,712-square-foot building they acquired in 2009.

It’s no surprise that data growth is exploding. In 1999, humankind had amassed 11 exabytes of digital information. By 2010 the figure had jumped to over 1 zettabyte. In light of this exponential growth, it’s imperative that data-intensive markets adopt storage solutions that demonstrate reliability, density, scalability and energy efficiency. They will also need tools to extract value from all this created and stored data.

Spectra Logic T-FinityOn the occasion of a big Spectra announcement earlier this week, Addison Snell, CEO of Intersect360 Research, explained that “the ‘Big Data’ trend is driving technology requirements in applications ranging from enterprise datacenters to academic supercomputing labs.” He went on to say that “the next generation of exascale data will require capabilities that not only provide sufficient capacity, but also deliver the speed, reliability, and data integrity features to match the needs of these environments.”

Consider these statistics (source: Making IT Matter – Chalfant/Toigo, 2009):

  • Up to 70 percent of capacity of every disk drive installed today is misused.
  • 40 percent of data is inert.
  • 15 percent is allocated but unused.
  • 10 percent is orphan data.
  • 5 percent is contraband data.

Currently, disk storage makes up between 33 and 70 cents of every dollar spent on IT hardware, and this trend is accelerating.

Before delving into tape’s role in the cloud space, it’s helpful to first review the major storage categories:

  • Backup: enables restoration of the most recent clean copy of the primary dataset available.

  • Archive: a repository designed to store, retain, and preserve data over time, regardless of its relation to the primary dataset.

  • Active Archive: An archive that manages both production and archive data in an online-accessible environment across multiple storage mediums including disk and tape.

It may seem obvious, but it’s important to point out that the value of data changes over time. With backup data, the information is more valuable today than it will be a month from now. Consider files stored on a computer that you will use to deliver a presentation five minutes from now. What if the data was lost or corrupted? With archive data, on the other hand, the value is measured over time. As our data habit grows, so does the need to prioritize it.

At the Spectra Logic event, which took place at the end of October, Chief Marketing Officer Molly Rector delivered a presentation on the state of the tape market, in which she shared the 2011 INSIC Tape Applications report. It looks at the ways tape is evolving to keep pace with the business realities of the 21st century:

“Tape has been shifting from its historical role of serving as a medium dedicated primarily to short-term backup, to a medium that addresses a much broader set of data storage goals, including:

Active archive (the most promising segment of market growth).

Regulatory compliance (approximately 20% – 25% of all business data created must be retained to meet compliance requirements for a specified and often lengthy period).

Disaster recovery, which continues in its traditional requirements as a significant use of tape.”

Rector explained that for practical reasons, a copy of all or most data stored in the cloud on disk is typically migrated to tape, if only for the extra reliability that tape provides. Tape is also used in cloud storage environments for the cost savings it confers.

Spectra slide - disk versus tape

Many people are naturally going to associate cloud storage with online storage, with spinning disks, but in reality most data that is created in or by the cloud will end up in a tape storage mechanism. In this video, Mark Peters, Senior Analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group, examines how tape’s role in the cloud parallels its importance in traditional IT. He details the following benefits:

  • Low CAPEX and OPEX cost per GB.
  • Reliable long-term storage with great media longevity and support for multiple media types.
  • It’s verifiable, searchable and scalable (with an active archive solution).

In Peters’ words, “[tape] remains the ultimate backup, and increasingly archival, device.” He goes on to note that tape is especially relevant for cloud in the areas of tiering and secure multi-tenancy, that is the sharing resources but not data. Keeping data secure is particularly important since privacy is cited as one of the major concerns with cloud. Portability is yet another plus for organizations looking to seed an offsite location, execute bulk DR restores, and even serves as an exit strategy to return data to a customer.

Active archiving is a major part of Spectra’s strategy to fulfill the requirements of an increasingly cloud-centered computing infrastructure. In an active archive, all production data, no matter how old or infrequently accessed, can still be retrieved online. According to company literature, Spectra’s Active Archive platform, announced in April 2010, offers cost-effective, online, file-based solutions that enable user access to all created data. With it, a petabyte of data can be presented as if it were a C drive. Additionally, management is simplified; business users simply set SLAs with their customers on the time to data, which may be 90-120 seconds coming from tape, or 2-3 seconds with a disk array.

Spectra slide - reduce overall data volumes
Spectra slide - before archiving
Spectra slide - after archiving
    Click on image to enlarge.

Archiving also reduces overall data volumes. It can turn 2.6 petabyte of data into 760 MB of managed data (as explained further in the set of slides on the right) and when you look at acquisition and energy costs, tape comes out ahead (as illustrated in the first slide). There are also financial and personnel costs involved with migration. Following best practices involves migrating data every 7 ½ years to new media in the same library with tape, or moving data to a new disk array every 3 – 4 years. As for portability, the quickest way to transport a petabyte of data is to send it through the air in a jumbo jet.

It certainly seems that Spectra is positioning itself as a big data storage provider, which it also refers to as exabyte storage. To that end, Spectra just announced a high-capacity T-Finity enterprise tape library capable of storing more than 3.6 exabytes of data. This represents the world’s largest data storage system – providing the highest capacity single library and the highest capacity library complex. A single T-Finity library will now expand to 40 frames for a capacity of up to 50,000 tape cartridges, and in a library complex, up to eight libraries can be clustered together for a capacity of up to 400,000 tape cartridges.

The jumbo storage solution will run the company’s recently-upgraded BlueScale management software, the latest version of which, BlueScale 12, delivers 35 to 60 percent faster robotic performance across Spectra’s enterprise and mid-range tape libraries, plus 15 to 20 times quicker library ‘power on’ times, as well as improved barcode scanning times. Another new advance, the Redundant Arrays of Independent Tapes (RAIT) architecture, developed with Spectra partner HPSS, “significantly improves data reliability in high performance, big data environments,” according to Jason Alt, senior software engineer, National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Chairman, CEO and Founder Nathan C. Thompson originally designed Spectra’s storage systems for high-density, not speed, but customers were not willing to make that tradeoff, explains Rector. Active archiving strikes a balance between keeping data visible in online disk arrays and moving the data to more cost-effective near-line or off-line tape.

So who needs all that storage? Spectra sees this solution as a natural fit for a wide range of communities, from medicine and genomics to nuclear physics and petroleum exploration, in addition to supercomputing, media and entertainment, Internet storage, surveillance and, of course, cloud computing. As an interesting side note, when it comes to archiving data, Spectra notes that the general enterprise can archive about 80 percent of its data, but with HPC this figure is closer to 90-95 percent.

Spectra has well over 150 petascale-class customers, including Argonne National Laboratory, NCSA, NASA and Entertainment Tonight, as well as many that do not want to be named. Whether storing petabytes or exabytes, value and density are paramount. Organizations looking to meet their specific storage ought to be concerned with finding the right balance of speed, density and cost. Then there’s the long-term outlook: scalability. Tape libraries can stay active for 10 years, 15 years, or longer, incorporating new technologies as they become available.

Of course tape is not an all or nothing proposition, in most instances, a tiered storage approach provides an optimal cost/benefit profile, a concept summarized by Chris Marsh, Spectra’s IT market and development manager:

Cloud storage providers often implement a tiered storage approach that provides upfront performance to customers via performance disk, while relying on tape storage on the back end. This is an effective way of meeting their customers’ requirements and driving more profitability for their organization. So, regardless of whether it’s a business or technology decision, tape adds value to cloud storage and should be considered when reviewing any specific cloud storage service provider.

Marsh wrote an in-depth 3-part feature on the value of tape for cloud storage providers. In it, he lists the key characteristics for a cloud service, including multi-tenancy, security, data integrity verification, retrieval expectations, and exit strategies.

For anyone wondering why this shift is happening now and not sooner, the simple answer is there wasn’t this much data before! There is a belief that data is growing faster than storage capacity, so we need a shift, one that includes more optimal efficiencies that give users access to the data they need, when they need it, and does so in a reliable, cost-effective, and energy-efficient manner.

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!

US Exascale Computing Update with Paul Messina

December 8, 2016

Around the world, efforts are ramping up to cross the next major computing threshold with machines that are 50-100x more performant than today’s fastest number crunchers.  Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Dec. 8, 2016)

December 8, 2016

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Qualcomm Targets Intel Datacenter Dominance with 10nm ARM-based Server Chip

December 8, 2016

Claiming no less than a reshaping of the future of Intel-dominated datacenter computing, Qualcomm Technologies, the market leader in smartphone chips, announced the forthcoming availability of what it says is the world’s first 10nm processor for servers, based on ARM Holding’s chip designs. Read more…

By Doug Black

Which Schools Produce the Top Coders in the World?

December 8, 2016

Ever wonder which universities worldwide produce the best coders? The answers may surprise you, at least as judged by the results of a competition posted yesterday on the HackerRank blog. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. The pilots, supported in part by DOE exascale funding, not only seek to do good by advancing cancer research and therapy but also to advance deep learning capabilities and infrastructure with an eye towards eventual use on exascale machines. Read more…

By John Russell

DDN Enables 50TB/Day Trans-Pacific Data Transfer for Yahoo Japan

December 6, 2016

Transferring data from one data center to another in search of lower regional energy costs isn’t a new concept, but Yahoo Japan is putting the idea into transcontinental effect with a system that transfers 50TB of data a day from Japan to the U.S., where electricity costs a quarter of the rates in Japan. Read more…

By Doug Black

Infographic Highlights Career of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

December 5, 2016

Dr. Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an early pioneer of computer science and one of the most famous women achievers in a field dominated by men. Read more…

By Staff

Ganthier, Turkel on the Dell EMC Road Ahead

December 5, 2016

Who is Dell EMC and why should you care? Glad you asked is Jim Ganthier’s quick response. Ganthier is SVP for validated solutions and high performance computing for the new (even bigger) technology giant Dell EMC following Dell’s acquisition of EMC in September. In this case, says Ganthier, the blending of the two companies is a 1+1 = 5 proposition. Not bad math if you can pull it off. Read more…

By John Russell

US Exascale Computing Update with Paul Messina

December 8, 2016

Around the world, efforts are ramping up to cross the next major computing threshold with machines that are 50-100x more performant than today’s fastest number crunchers.  Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. The pilots, supported in part by DOE exascale funding, not only seek to do good by advancing cancer research and therapy but also to advance deep learning capabilities and infrastructure with an eye towards eventual use on exascale machines. Read more…

By John Russell

Ganthier, Turkel on the Dell EMC Road Ahead

December 5, 2016

Who is Dell EMC and why should you care? Glad you asked is Jim Ganthier’s quick response. Ganthier is SVP for validated solutions and high performance computing for the new (even bigger) technology giant Dell EMC following Dell’s acquisition of EMC in September. In this case, says Ganthier, the blending of the two companies is a 1+1 = 5 proposition. Not bad math if you can pull it off. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Seagate-led SAGE Project Delivers Update on Exascale Goals

November 29, 2016

Roughly a year and a half after its launch, the SAGE exascale storage project led by Seagate has delivered a substantive interim report – Data Storage for Extreme Scale. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE-SGI to Tackle Exascale and Enterprise Targets

November 22, 2016

At first blush, and maybe second blush too, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) purchase of SGI seems like an unambiguous win-win. SGI’s advanced shared memory technology, its popular UV product line (Hanna), deep vertical market expertise, and services-led go-to-market capability all give HPE a leg up in its drive to remake itself. Bear in mind HPE came into existence just a year ago with the split of Hewlett-Packard. The computer landscape, including HPC, is shifting with still unclear consequences. One wonders who’s next on the deal block following Dell’s recent merger with EMC. Read more…

By John Russell

Why 2016 Is the Most Important Year in HPC in Over Two Decades

August 23, 2016

In 1994, two NASA employees connected 16 commodity workstations together using a standard Ethernet LAN and installed open-source message passing software that allowed their number-crunching scientific application to run on the whole “cluster” of machines as if it were a single entity. Read more…

By Vincent Natoli, Stone Ridge Technology

IBM Advances Against x86 with Power9

August 30, 2016

After offering OpenPower Summit attendees a limited preview in April, IBM is unveiling further details of its next-gen CPU, Power9, which the tech mainstay is counting on to regain market share ceded to rival Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Think Fast – Is Neuromorphic Computing Set to Leap Forward?

August 15, 2016

Steadily advancing neuromorphic computing technology has created high expectations for this fundamentally different approach to computing. Read more…

By John Russell

ARM Unveils Scalable Vector Extension for HPC at Hot Chips

August 22, 2016

ARM and Fujitsu today announced a scalable vector extension (SVE) to the ARMv8-A architecture intended to enhance ARM capabilities in HPC workloads. Fujitsu is the lead silicon partner in the effort (so far) and will use ARM with SVE technology in its post K computer, Japan’s next flagship supercomputer planned for the 2020 timeframe. This is an important incremental step for ARM, which seeks to push more aggressively into mainstream and HPC server markets. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Debuts Power8 Chip with NVLink and Three New Systems

September 8, 2016

Not long after revealing more details about its next-gen Power9 chip due in 2017, IBM today rolled out three new Power8-based Linux servers and a new version of its Power8 chip featuring Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect. Read more…

By John Russell

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

Leading Solution Providers

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Silicon Photonics Chip, Previews Next-Gen Phi for AI

August 18, 2016

At the Intel Developer Forum, held in San Francisco this week, Intel Senior Vice President and General Manager Diane Bryant announced the launch of Intel's Silicon Photonics product line and teased a brand-new Phi product, codenamed "Knights Mill," aimed at machine learning workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Micron, Intel Prepare to Launch 3D XPoint Memory

August 16, 2016

Micron Technology used last week’s Flash Memory Summit to roll out its new line of 3D XPoint memory technology jointly developed with Intel while demonstrating the technology in solid-state drives. Micron claimed its Quantx line delivers PCI Express (PCIe) SSD performance with read latencies at less than 10 microseconds and writes at less than 20 microseconds. Read more…

By George Leopold

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

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