Closing Tape’s Generational Gap

By Nicole Hemsoth

October 9, 2013

We are in Broomfield, Colorado today with tape storage company, Spectra Logic, to get a better grasp on the future direction of their storage medium’s role in both HPC and larger scale enterprise environments–both of which are being inundated with massive data growth.

As the event comes to a close, one thing is for certain–for a relatively small company in an industry that is beholden to the perception that it’s tied to an aging technology, Spectra is managing to turn its worldview around to meet a new generation of users in new data-driven markets (web-based retail, social networks, media and entertainment, etc.). The energy was palpable this week around some core refreshes to their existing line of tape products–from the massive T-Finity boxes that loom in supercomputing centers like Blue Waters to smaller tape systems that power video production at major cable networks. And for anyone who says “tape is dead” outside of the big HPC sites–think again…

While the company is set to make a major announcement later this week about its roadmap and some key products, all signs are pointing to a future that is far more heavily defined by their investments in software. During a presentation this morning describing the trajectory of their storage vision, senior executives continually emphasized that although they’re often defined as a hardware-driven company, around 80% of their employees are software engineers.

The new focus for Spectra Logic is moving beyond a hardware-centric view of tape, argued the company’s CEO, Nathan Thompson. At the core of this focus is what they’re calling “deep storage” which is focused on offering a REST interface, persistence, cost effectiveness, efficiency, security and ease of use. While of this is driven by their tape products, the real focus is on offering a native RESTful interface to robotic tape storage systems, Deep Simple Storage Service (DS3) which will allow users more open access to using tape as a long-term storage approach.

Their new DS3 interface, a RESTful interface will be supported by all of their tape products. The company emphasized how it is opening access for new users to tape as well as ISV partners and end user developers who can now leverage software clients that Spectra is making available or write their own clients. Additionally, the DS3 interface allows applications to move large quantities of data without the burdensome process and technologies that once muddled that course. Spectra says that it is thus ideal for accessing tape for large data objects. On the management front, users can tap intelligent data object reads/writes, which they say will optimize tape drive and tape media utilization and performance. DS3 supports deep storage in a wide capacity range with configurations as small as 15 terabytes and can scale past the coming exabyte era in one tape storage system.

When presenting per terabyte-based cost breakdowns across its product line, the weakness of disk as the long term storage format of choice for certain markets was rather hard to question. The problem has always been that moving over to tape, while clearly the cheaper route in terms of ROI over time, might have been clear to users, the usability and data access and movement have proven to be significant challenges.

Thomson says that his company is evolving with the market. As it stands, a great many of the users who are familiar with writing to and using tape are close to retiring and the newest generation of potential users are not likely to learn the same modes of working with tape libraries. Accordingly, as Thompson noted today, there is a new tier of storage that can target “large bulk quantities of data for extended and possibly infinite periods of time while meeting the needs of newer datacenter architectures that leverage storage in the form of data objects and utilize RESTful interfaces.” These interfaces are set to modernize access and use of tape and democratize interactions with archiving (and archived) data.

The key to Spectra’s growth on the software-driven side is contained within the RESTful interface they’ve developed that lets users talk to tape in a more modern way. Thompson pointed to a supercomputing center that is doing weather simulations that wants to add a private cloud into the mix to share data. They’re using the REST interface to allow researchers around the globe to drop their results into the cloud and tape without having the complications and specialization of writing to tape in between.

Spectra’s CMO, Molly Rector, described in detail the many benefits of object storage over file system approaches, noting that ease of use is a major component. Echoing Thompson’s belief that modernizing tape use and access by offering access to it via more common tools (the REST approach) she noted that users can move beyond the nested nature of file systems that require users to understand in detail both location and content to be able to fetch data, especially when at the petabyte level. Objects with their approach are assigned a unique ID to make the physical location of the data irrelevant, which means that objects can be moved across storage pools among one or multiple tiers, they can be shared or copied within an object store and therefore be more accessible for search, data mining and analytics across billions of objects without dealing with moving bulk data via complex, specialized tooling.

The company’s approach to deep storage is enhanced going forward by allowing users to store objects that are self-describing and are written in an open file format. Since the whole goal of tape is to offer a low cost solution to persistent, secure storage designed for data that does not require immediate access, such data can sit for an incredibly long time–until the next storage medium comes along. Migrations of petabytes (or beyond) of data is a nightmare, but by creating portability in this next generation they can make such migrations more seamless.

Thompson detailed Spectra’s growth curve from its roots in 1979 all the way into the present. While the first several years were rather flat, the privately-held company of approximately 400 people, has an attractive curve that is set to lead them into continued growth in the coming year, driven in part by emerging markets that lie outside of traditional HPC areas, including video production and web-based business operations.

Rector pointed to a distributed customer base with HPC customers making up around 18 percent of their overall business. During the event, most of the customers and interested parties we spoke with, including NASCAR’s video production lead, were in the media and entertainment space. Others, including Kevin Graham, Principal Infrastructure Architect at Yahoo, discussed how opening access to tape provides one of the most cost-effective solutions for data that does not power time-critical user services but that acts as the most efficient backend systems for helping the web giant handle internal data-intensive projects.

Spectra cited a few noteworthy revenue figures, including that they’ve seen 16% year over year growth in 2013. They have seen 14% growth in enterprise libraries and 12% growth in their midrange libraries. The company also showed off their R&D investments over the years, which following solid profitability, has hovered between 10 and 14%. This year they pushed 13% into R&D.

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!

Watch Nvidia’s GTC21 Keynote with Jensen Huang Livestreamed Here at HPCwire

April 9, 2021

Join HPCwire right here on Monday, April 12, at 8:30 am PT to see the Nvidia GTC21 keynote from Nvidia’s CEO, Jensen Huang, livestreamed in its entirety. Hosted by HPCwire, you can click to join the Huang keynote on our livestream to hear Nvidia’s expected news and... Read more…

The US Places Seven Additional Chinese Supercomputing Entities on Blacklist

April 8, 2021

As tensions between the U.S. and China continue to simmer, the U.S. government today added seven Chinese supercomputing entities to an economic blacklist. The U.S. Entity List bars U.S. firms from supplying key technolog Read more…

Argonne Supercomputing Supports Caterpillar Engine Design

April 8, 2021

Diesel fuels still account for nearly ten percent of all energy-related U.S. carbon emissions – most of them from heavy-duty vehicles like trucks and construction equipment. Energy efficiency is key to these machines, Read more…

Habana’s AI Silicon Comes to San Diego Supercomputer Center

April 8, 2021

Habana Labs, an Intel-owned AI company, has partnered with server maker Supermicro to provide high-performance, high-efficiency AI computing in the form of new training and inference servers that will power the upcoming Read more…

Intel Partners Debut Latest Servers Based on the New Intel Gen 3 ‘Ice Lake’ Xeons

April 7, 2021

Fresh from Intel’s launch of the company’s latest third-generation Xeon Scalable “Ice Lake” processors on April 6 (Tuesday), Intel server partners Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo simultaneously unveiled their first server models built around the latest chips. And though arch-rival AMD may... Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Volkswagen Passenger Cars Uses NICE DCV for High-Performance 3D Remote Visualization

 

Volkswagen Passenger Cars has been one of the world’s largest car manufacturers for over 70 years. The company delivers more than 6 million automobiles to global customers every year, from 50 production locations on five continents. Read more…

What’s New in HPC Research: Tundra, Fugaku, µHPC & More

April 6, 2021

In this regular feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

The US Places Seven Additional Chinese Supercomputing Entities on Blacklist

April 8, 2021

As tensions between the U.S. and China continue to simmer, the U.S. government today added seven Chinese supercomputing entities to an economic blacklist. The U Read more…

Habana’s AI Silicon Comes to San Diego Supercomputer Center

April 8, 2021

Habana Labs, an Intel-owned AI company, has partnered with server maker Supermicro to provide high-performance, high-efficiency AI computing in the form of new Read more…

Intel Partners Debut Latest Servers Based on the New Intel Gen 3 ‘Ice Lake’ Xeons

April 7, 2021

Fresh from Intel’s launch of the company’s latest third-generation Xeon Scalable “Ice Lake” processors on April 6 (Tuesday), Intel server partners Cisco, Dell EMC, HPE and Lenovo simultaneously unveiled their first server models built around the latest chips. And though arch-rival AMD may... 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…

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…

RIKEN’s Ongoing COVID Research Includes New Vaccines, New Tests & More

April 6, 2021

RIKEN took the supercomputing world by storm last summer when it launched Fugaku – which became (and remains) the world’s most powerful supercomputer – ne 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…

AI Systems Summit Keynote: Brace for System Level Heterogeneity Says de Supinski

April 1, 2021

Heterogeneous computing has quickly come to mean packing a couple of CPUs and one-or-many accelerators, mostly GPUs, onto the same node. Today, a one-such-node system has become the standard AI server offered by dozens of vendors. This is not to diminish the many advances... 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…

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…

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…

Programming the Soon-to-Be World’s Fastest Supercomputer, Frontier

January 5, 2021

What’s it like designing an app for the world’s fastest supercomputer, set to come online in the United States in 2021? The University of Delaware’s Sunita Chandrasekaran is leading an elite international team in just that task. Chandrasekaran, assistant professor of computer and information sciences, recently was named... 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

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…

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…

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…

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…

HPE Names Justin Hotard New HPC Chief as Pete Ungaro Departs

March 2, 2021

HPE CEO Antonio Neri announced today (March 2, 2021) the appointment of Justin Hotard as general manager of HPC, mission critical solutions and labs, effective Read more…

Microsoft, HPE Bringing AI, Edge, Cloud to Earth Orbit in Preparation for Mars Missions

February 12, 2021

The International Space Station will soon get a delivery of powerful AI, edge and cloud computing tools from HPE and Microsoft Azure to expand technology experi Read more…

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…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire