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!

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

HPCwire: Let's start with HLRS and work our way up to the European scale. HLRS has stood out in the HPC world for its support of both scientific and industrial research. Can you discuss key developments in recent years? Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center Offers a Virtual Tour of Its MareNostrum Supercomputer

July 6, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to threaten the world and disrupt normal operations, facility tours remain a little difficult to operate, with many supercomputing centers having shuttered facility tours for visitor Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Fugaku, Congress, De Novo Design & More

July 2, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing reso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time last year, IBM announced open sourcing its Power instructio Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Supercomputers Enable Radical, Promising New COVID-19 Drug Development Approach

July 1, 2020

Around the world, innumerable supercomputers are sifting through billions of molecules in a desperate search for a viable therapeutic to treat COVID-19. Those molecules are pulled from enormous databases of known compoun Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

HPCwire: Let's start with HLRS and work our way up to the European scale. HLRS has stood out in the HPC world for its support of both scientific and industrial Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hoefler’s Whirlwind ISC20 Virtual Tour of ML Trends in 9 Slides

June 23, 2020

The ISC20 experience this year via livestreaming and pre-recordings is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. That said presenters’ efforts to condense their comments makes for economic use of your time. Torsten Hoefler’s whirlwind 12-minute tour of ML is a great example. Hoefler, leader of the planned ISC20 Machine Learning... Read more…

By John Russell

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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…

By Doug Black

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This