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!

Nvidia Shuts Out RISC-V Software Support for GPUs 

September 23, 2022

Nvidia is not interested in bringing software support to its GPUs for the RISC-V architecture despite being an early adopter of the open-source technology in its GPU controllers. Nvidia has no plans to add RISC-V support for CUDA, which is the proprietary GPU software platform, a company representative... Read more…

Microsoft Closes Confidential Computing Loop with AMD’s Milan Chip

September 22, 2022

Microsoft shared details on how it uses an AMD technology to secure artificial intelligence as it builds out a secure AI infrastructure in its Azure cloud service. Microsoft has a strong relationship with Nvidia, but is also working with AMD's Epyc chips (including the new 3D VCache series), MI Instinct accelerators, and also... Read more…

Nvidia Introduces New Ada Lovelace GPU Architecture, OVX Systems, Omniverse Cloud

September 20, 2022

In his GTC keynote today, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang launched another new Nvidia GPU architecture: Ada Lovelace, named for the legendary mathematician regarded as the first computer programmer. The company also announced tw Read more…

Nvidia’s Hopper GPUs Enter ‘Full Production,’ DGXs Delayed Until Q1

September 20, 2022

Just about six months ago, Nvidia’s spring GTC event saw the announcement of its hotly anticipated Hopper GPU architecture. Now, the GPU giant is announcing that Hopper-generation GPUs (which promise greater energy eff Read more…

NeMo LLM Service: Nvidia’s First Cloud Service Makes AI Less Vague

September 20, 2022

Nvidia is trying to uncomplicate AI with a cloud service that makes AI and its many forms of computing less vague and more conversational. The NeMo LLM service, which Nvidia called its first cloud service, adds a layer of intelligence and interactivity... Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Shutterstock 1194728515

Simulating 44-Qubit quantum circuits using AWS ParallelCluster

Dr. Fabio Baruffa, Sr. HPC & QC Solutions Architect
Dr. Pavel Lougovski, Pr. QC Research Scientist
Tyson Jones, Doctoral researcher, University of Oxford

Introduction

Currently, an enormous effort is underway to develop quantum computing hardware capable of scaling to hundreds, thousands, and even millions of physical (non-error-corrected) qubits. Read more…

Microsoft/NVIDIA Solution Channel

Shutterstock 1166887495

Improving Insurance Fraud Detection using AI Running on Cloud-based GPU-Accelerated Systems

Insurance is a highly regulated industry that is evolving as the industry faces changing customer expectations, massive amounts of data, and increased regulations. A major issue facing the industry is tracking insurance fraud. Read more…

Nvidia Targets Computers for Robots in the Surgery Rooms

September 20, 2022

Nvidia is laying the groundwork for a future in which humans and robots will be collaborators in the surgery rooms at hospitals. The company announced a computer called IGX for Medical Devices, which will be populated in robots, image scanners and other computers and medical devices involved in patient care close to the point... Read more…

Nvidia Shuts Out RISC-V Software Support for GPUs 

September 23, 2022

Nvidia is not interested in bringing software support to its GPUs for the RISC-V architecture despite being an early adopter of the open-source technology in its GPU controllers. Nvidia has no plans to add RISC-V support for CUDA, which is the proprietary GPU software platform, a company representative... Read more…

Nvidia Introduces New Ada Lovelace GPU Architecture, OVX Systems, Omniverse Cloud

September 20, 2022

In his GTC keynote today, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang launched another new Nvidia GPU architecture: Ada Lovelace, named for the legendary mathematician regarded as Read more…

Nvidia’s Hopper GPUs Enter ‘Full Production,’ DGXs Delayed Until Q1

September 20, 2022

Just about six months ago, Nvidia’s spring GTC event saw the announcement of its hotly anticipated Hopper GPU architecture. Now, the GPU giant is announcing t Read more…

NeMo LLM Service: Nvidia’s First Cloud Service Makes AI Less Vague

September 20, 2022

Nvidia is trying to uncomplicate AI with a cloud service that makes AI and its many forms of computing less vague and more conversational. The NeMo LLM service, which Nvidia called its first cloud service, adds a layer of intelligence and interactivity... Read more…

Nvidia Targets Computers for Robots in the Surgery Rooms

September 20, 2022

Nvidia is laying the groundwork for a future in which humans and robots will be collaborators in the surgery rooms at hospitals. The company announced a computer called IGX for Medical Devices, which will be populated in robots, image scanners and other computers and medical devices involved in patient care close to the point... Read more…

Survey Results: PsiQuantum, ORNL, and D-Wave Tackle Benchmarking, Networking, and More

September 19, 2022

The are many issues in quantum computing today – among the more pressing are benchmarking, networking and development of hybrid classical-quantum approaches. Read more…

HPC + AI Wall Street to Feature ‘Spooky’ Science for Financial Services

September 18, 2022

Albert Einstein famously described quantum mechanics as "spooky action at a distance" due to the non-intuitive nature of superposition and quantum entangled par Read more…

Analog Chips Find a New Lease of Life in Artificial Intelligence

September 17, 2022

The need for speed is a hot topic among participants at this week’s AI Hardware Summit – larger AI language models, faster chips and more bandwidth for AI machines to make accurate predictions. But some hardware startups are taking a throwback approach for AI computing to counter the more-is-better... Read more…

AWS Takes the Short and Long View of Quantum Computing

August 30, 2022

It is perhaps not surprising that the big cloud providers – a poor term really – have jumped into quantum computing. Amazon, Microsoft Azure, Google, and th Read more…

The Final Frontier: US Has Its First Exascale Supercomputer

May 30, 2022

In April 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy announced plans to procure a trio of exascale supercomputers at a total cost of up to $1.8 billion dollars. Over the ensuing four years, many announcements were made, many deadlines were missed, and a pandemic threw the world into disarray. Now, at long last, HPE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have announced that the first of those... Read more…

US Senate Passes CHIPS Act Temperature Check, but Challenges Linger

July 19, 2022

The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a major hurdle that will open up close to $52 billion in grants for the semiconductor industry to boost manufacturing, supply chain and research and development. U.S. senators voted 64-34 in favor of advancing the CHIPS Act, which sets the stage for the final consideration... Read more…

Nvidia Shuts Out RISC-V Software Support for GPUs 

September 23, 2022

Nvidia is not interested in bringing software support to its GPUs for the RISC-V architecture despite being an early adopter of the open-source technology in its GPU controllers. Nvidia has no plans to add RISC-V support for CUDA, which is the proprietary GPU software platform, a company representative... Read more…

Top500: Exascale Is Officially Here with Debut of Frontier

May 30, 2022

The 59th installment of the Top500 list, issued today from ISC 2022 in Hamburg, Germany, officially marks a new era in supercomputing with the debut of the first-ever exascale system on the list. Frontier, deployed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, achieved 1.102 exaflops in its fastest High Performance Linpack run, which was completed... Read more…

Chinese Startup Biren Details BR100 GPU

August 22, 2022

Amid the high-performance GPU turf tussle between AMD and Nvidia (and soon, Intel), a new, China-based player is emerging: Biren Technology, founded in 2019 and headquartered in Shanghai. At Hot Chips 34, Biren co-founder and president Lingjie Xu and Biren CTO Mike Hong took the (virtual) stage to detail the company’s inaugural product: the Biren BR100 general-purpose GPU (GPGPU). “It is my honor to present... Read more…

Newly-Observed Higgs Mode Holds Promise in Quantum Computing

June 8, 2022

The first-ever appearance of a previously undetectable quantum excitation known as the axial Higgs mode – exciting in its own right – also holds promise for developing and manipulating higher temperature quantum materials... Read more…

AMD’s MI300 APUs to Power Exascale El Capitan Supercomputer

June 21, 2022

Additional details of the architecture of the exascale El Capitan supercomputer were disclosed today by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Terri Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Tesla Bulks Up Its GPU-Powered AI Super – Is Dojo Next?

August 16, 2022

Tesla has revealed that its biggest in-house AI supercomputer – which we wrote about last year – now has a total of 7,360 A100 GPUs, a nearly 28 percent uplift from its previous total of 5,760 GPUs. That’s enough GPU oomph for a top seven spot on the Top500, although the tech company best known for its electric vehicles has not publicly benchmarked the system. If it had, it would... Read more…

Exclusive Inside Look at First US Exascale Supercomputer

July 1, 2022

HPCwire takes you inside the Frontier datacenter at DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Oak Ridge, Tenn., for an interview with Frontier Project Direc Read more…

AMD Opens Up Chip Design to the Outside for Custom Future

June 15, 2022

AMD is getting personal with chips as it sets sail to make products more to the liking of its customers. The chipmaker detailed a modular chip future in which customers can mix and match non-AMD processors in a custom chip package. "We are focused on making it easier to implement chips with more flexibility," said Mark Papermaster, chief technology officer at AMD during the analyst day meeting late last week. Read more…

Intel Reiterates Plans to Merge CPU, GPU High-performance Chip Roadmaps

May 31, 2022

Intel reiterated it is well on its way to merging its roadmap of high-performance CPUs and GPUs as it shifts over to newer manufacturing processes and packaging technologies in the coming years. The company is merging the CPU and GPU lineups into a chip (codenamed Falcon Shores) which Intel has dubbed an XPU. Falcon Shores... Read more…

Nvidia, Intel to Power Atos-Built MareNostrum 5 Supercomputer

June 16, 2022

The long-troubled, hotly anticipated MareNostrum 5 supercomputer finally has a vendor: Atos, which will be supplying a system that includes both Nvidia and Inte Read more…

UCIe Consortium Incorporates, Nvidia and Alibaba Round Out Board

August 2, 2022

The Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express (UCIe) consortium is moving ahead with its effort to standardize a universal interconnect at the package level. The c Read more…

Using Exascale Supercomputers to Make Clean Fusion Energy Possible

September 2, 2022

Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the Sun and the stars, has incredible potential as a source of safe, carbon-free and essentially limitless energy. But Read more…

Is Time Running Out for Compromise on America COMPETES/USICA Act?

June 22, 2022

You may recall that efforts proposed in 2020 to remake the National Science Foundation (Endless Frontier Act) have since expanded and morphed into two gigantic bills, the America COMPETES Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act in the U.S. Senate. So far, efforts to reconcile the two pieces of legislation have snagged and recent reports... Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire