Move Over Lustre & Spectrum Scale – Here Comes BeeGFS?

By John Russell

November 26, 2018

Is BeeGFS – the parallel file system with European roots – on a path to compete with Lustre and Spectrum Scale worldwide in HPC environments? Frank Herold’s unsurprising answer is yes. Herold is CEO of ThinkParQ, the company created in 2014 to commercialize BeeGFS. You may remember that BeeGFS got its start as an in-house project (2005) at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics (ITWM) and was called the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft File System (FhGFS). It was later spun out as BeeGFS under ThinkParQ’s control although a fair amount of development still occurs in collaboration with ITWM.

Leaving the history aside for a moment, Herold was busy at SC18 this month making the case that BeeGFS’s mature technical strength combined with a solidifying channel landscape make it a worthy alternative (rival) to Lustre and Spectrum Scale. In making the case, Herold highlighted a recent win with partner Dell EMC to deploy BeeGFS at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) in Australia.

“We started going more international a year and a half ago. It’s interesting that the number of international projects are not high, but from a project size perspective those projects are quite significant. As of today, combining North America and Asia Pacific, roughly 45 percent of our revenue is from those regions,” Herold told HPCwire. “We have a very significant deal with our partner and Dell EMC at CSIRO. It’s a 2-petabyte, all NVMe, storage solution built for AI. This is in deployment right now.”

That’s a big win and potential proof point. ThinkParQ doesn’t publicly report revenues so it’s hard to accurately judge market traction and because BeeGFS is open source it is difficult to know how many organizations are using it or what it is being used for. Nevertheless, the timing of ThinkParQ’s push may be spot on.

Lustre’s future has seemed hazy lately. It is very strong in supercomputing centers but not so much in commercial HPC. Intel purchased Lustre provider Whamcloud in 2012 intending to build up a Lustre business but exited the business in 2017. This past June Intel sold its Lustre assets to DDN which as a leading HPC storage provider with several Lustre appliances may become a better steward for Lustre. (see HPCwire articles, Intel Open Sources All Lustre Work, Brent Gorda Exits, DDN Acquires Lustre File System Capability from Intel.)

In 2015 IBM rebranded its popular General Parallel File System (GPFS) as IBM Spectrum Scale. GPFS has also been a strong player in HPC and especially strong in high end enterprise computing.

Practically speaking, no parallel file system dominates commercial HPC noted analyst Addison Snell, CEO, Intersect360 Research, “BeeGFS has grown in popularity, particularly in Europe. However, no parallel file system is yet to be broadly adopted across commercial HPC segments, which constitute the majority of HPC usage.”

One observer directly involved in HPC storage technology selection and deployment agrees interest in BeeGFS is rising.

“With the current transition and uncertainty present both for Lustre and Spectrum Scale offerings in HPC, it is no surprise that this year there has been more buzz (forgive the pun) around BeeGFS than before,” said Aaron Gardner, director of technology, BioTeam, a research computing consultancy specializing in life sciences. “HPC has long been searching for a distributed parallel file system alternative. We’ve watched BeeGFS evolve over the past few years into a potential contender.” (diagram of architecture below.)

Ease of use, scalability, and powerful metadata handling capabilities are among the attributes that distinguish BeeGFS from Lustre and Spectrum Scale contends Herold. In February of 2016 the BeeGFS source code was “open sourced.” That said, ThinkParQ’s business model depends on providing supported versions with added functionalities and a few observers grumbled the terms of BeeGFS’s open source agreement impede maximizing its value without going through ThinkParQ. Major releases occur roughly yearly with minor upgrades roughly quarterly. Version 7 was released last May. One of the major new features, said Herold, was the addition of storage pools.

“Storage pools give customers capabilities that are across the name space. They can split up data and decide where the data are going on fast or high density storage underneath,” said Herold. Storage pools allow the cluster admin to group targets and mirror buddy groups together in different classes. For instance, there can be one pool consisting of fast, but small solid state drives, and another pool for bulk storage, using big but slower spinning disks. Pools can have descriptive names, making it easy to remember which pool to use without looking up the storage targets in the pool. The SSD pool could be named “fast” and the other “bulk” (diagram below).

Another interesting capability is BeeGFS On Demand (BeeOND). The concept here is to use storage on client machines rather than main storage.

“We have storage server on one end and then you have hundreds or thousands of clients. We build on the fly a kind of temporary BeeGFS file system which can take off some nasty workloads from the primary storage area and to those temporary workspaces. It’s is really a nice model where you have your primary datacenter running [but] you can also spin up temporary work spaces, and you can decide whether on all clients or just portions of clients for specific jobs,” said Herold.

As noted in BeeGFS documentation, the problem with the internal drives in compute nodes is that they provide neither the advantage of a single name space across multiple machines nor the flexibility and performance of a shared parallel file system. BeeOND solves this problem by creating a shared parallel filesystem on a “per-job basis” across all compute nodes that are part of the particular compute job, exactly for the runtime of the job (diagram below).

Best to review the BeeGFS documentation for a fuller view of its capabilities. HPCwire asked Ari Berman, BioTeam VP and GM of consulting services, for a quick assessment of BeeGFS versus its main competitors:

“BeeGFS is promising in a lot of ways. The major disadvantage of Lustre in our space has historically been the serial metadata access model that it uses, which makes the many concurrent file operations required for many life science workloads incredibly slow. Serious Lustre shops actively discourage users from running codes that do this, but that is really only tractable when you have direct control over how the codes running in your environment are written. The Lustre community has made modifications to provide a distributed namespace model that pseudo-parallelizes metadata access across directories, but it still doesn’t fully address all use cases for concurrent file operations.

Ari Berman, BioTeam

“Spectrum Scale is a little better in that the NSD (network shared disk) servers can more easily be tuned for concurrent metadata access across metanodes, but you make those tuning choices at the expense of other performance gains. BeeGFS has the advantage of having a bit faster metadata out of the gate, while also being able to distribute metadata operations per directory and subdirectory across metadata nodes in a simplified manner. Like GPFS, you can add many more metadata targets (servers), as many as you need, and it will scale well and is a bit simpler to setup than multiple Lustre MDS.

“Another major advantage is the ability to thread the metadata request server using a built-in queue, and the ability to specify how many threads to spawn on each metadata server as needed. This avoids the serial request bottleneck when many (or even one) servers are making millions of requests for small files on the filesystem.  One final plus for BeeGFS is while the server is written in user space, it does have a native kernel client that has been capable for the past few years of saturating 100Gbps client connections. The latest Spectrum Scale 5 or Lustre 2.10 LTS releases also get there with tuning, but there is a lot of variability in which versions of Lustre or Spectrum Scale the vendor and channel spaces are currently providing to customers.

“So, for us, BeeGFS is promising, but all of this is theoretical. We haven’t been able to get our hands on it to test drive it and test how well these features would work in this space. The fact that the software is free to download and use is a big advantage, and makes it much more accessible to our user base. But we note that certain features require licensed support from ThinkParQ, and the source code license while open is less permissive than Lustre for example.”

Like other parallel file systems, BeeGFS is mostly hardware agnostic. “From the CPU level we support everything on the market, whether it’s Power, Arm, Intel (x86), it doesn’t matter. From a storage perspective, as long as it shows up as a device, we can manage it. Also from an infrastructure level we play on TCP/IP and gigabit Ethernet and InfiniBand,” said Herold.

ThinkParQ is working to push to expand its market reach and Herold singled out HPC (scientific), life sciences, AI, and oil & gas as the key targets. Predictably, a key element in expansion plans is channel development. Currently, ThinkParQ is a services and software play offering commercial versions and support of BeeGFS. Getting into the hardware business for such a small company poses too many challenges. ThinkParQ does, however, have a few partners either bundling BeeGFS with systems or building appliances. Penguin Computing (serving the U.S. and Europe) and Taiwan-based QCT (Asia Pac) are two.

Said Berman, “Right now they are focused on building channel partners, but they currently are still far behind the depth present in the Lustre and Spectrum Scale ecosystems. Another disadvantage is that BeeGFS has yet to be used with the volume of customers and at the scale that Lustre and Spectrum Scale have been, so there are still likely edge and corner cases with BeeGFS that are yet to be encountered.”

Herold, who became CEO last February, is hoping engagements such as the CSIRO project will build confidence and demand. BeeGFS is hardly swarming, yet, but there’s a definite hum in the air.

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!

U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios Adds DoD Research & Engineering Title

July 13, 2020

Michael Kratsios, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, has been appointed acting Undersecretary of Defense for research and engineering. He replaces Mike Griffin, who along with his deputy Lis Porter, stepped down last wee Read more…

By John Russell

Supercomputer Research Reveals Star Cluster Born Outside Our Galaxy

July 11, 2020

The Milky Way is our galactic home, containing our solar system and continuing into a giant band of densely packed stars that stretches across clear night skies around the world – but, it turns out, not all of those st Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprised of Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia A100 GPUs, and featuri Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Xilinx Announces First Adaptive Computing Challenge

July 9, 2020

A new contest is challenging the computing world. Xilinx has announced the first Xilinx Adaptive Computing Challenge, a competition that will task developers and startups with finding creative workload acceleration solutions. Xilinx is running the Adaptive Computing Challenge in partnership with, a developing community... Read more…

By Staff report

Reviving Moore’s Law? LBNL Researchers See Promise in Heterostructure Oxides

July 9, 2020

The reality of Moore’s law’s decline is no longer doubted for good empirical reasons. That said, never say never. Recent work by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers suggests heterostructure oxides may b Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Best Practices for Running Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Workloads on AWS

The scalable nature and variable demand of CFD workloads makes them well-suited for a cloud computing environment. Many of the AWS instance types, such as the compute family instance types, are designed to include support for this type of workload.  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…

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: 1) Industries of the Future (IotF), chaired be Dario Gil (d Read more…

By John Russell

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprise Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 “Accelerator Optimized” VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by the HGX A100 16-GPU platform, which combines two HGX A100 8-GPU baseboards using... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

July 6, 2020

In this exclusive interview for HPCwire – sadly not face to face – Steve Conway, senior advisor for Hyperion Research, talks with Dr.-Ing Bastian Koller about the state of HPC and its collaboration with Industry in Europe. Koller is a familiar figure in HPC. He is the managing director at High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) and also serves... 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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers


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

‘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

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

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

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

John Martinis Reportedly Leaves Google Quantum Effort

April 21, 2020

John Martinis, who led Google’s quantum computing effort since establishing its quantum hardware group in 2014, has left Google after being moved into an advi Read more…

By John Russell

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