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!

Russian Supercomputer Employed to Develop COVID-19 Treatment

March 31, 2020

From Summit to [email protected], global supercomputing is continuing to mobilize against the coronavirus pandemic by crunching massive problems like epidemiology, therapeutic development and vaccine development. The latest a Read more…

By Staff report

What’s New in HPC Research: Supersonic Jets, Skin Modeling, Astrophysics & More

March 31, 2020

In this bimonthly 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…

By Oliver Peckham

Pandemic ‘Wipes Out’ 2020 HPC Market Growth, Flat to 12% Drop Expected

March 31, 2020

As the world battles the still accelerating novel coronavirus, the HPC community has mounted a forceful response to the pandemic on many fronts. But these efforts won't inoculate the HPC industry from the economic effects of COVID-19. Market watcher Intersect360 Research has revised its 2020 forecast for HPC products and services, projecting... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

LLNL Leverages Supercomputing to Identify COVID-19 Antibody Candidates

March 30, 2020

As COVID-19 sweeps the globe to devastating effect, supercomputers around the world are spinning up to fight back by working on diagnosis, epidemiology, treatment and vaccine development. Now, Lawrence Livermore National Read more…

By Staff report

Weather at Exascale: Load Balancing for Heterogeneous Systems

March 30, 2020

The first months of 2020 were dominated by weather and climate supercomputing news, with major announcements coming from the UK, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and the U.S. National Oceanic and At Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Amazon FSx for Lustre Update: Persistent Storage for Long-Term, High-Performance Workloads

Last year I wrote about Amazon FSx for Lustre and told you how our customers can use it to create pebibyte-scale, highly parallel POSIX-compliant file systems that serve thousands of simultaneous clients driving millions of IOPS (Input/Output Operations per Second) with sub-millisecond latency. Read more…

Q&A Part Two: ORNL’s Pooser on Progress in Quantum Communication

March 30, 2020

Quantum computing seems to get more than its fair share of attention compared to quantum communication. That’s despite the fact that quantum networking may be nearer to becoming a practical reality. In this second inst Read more…

By John Russell

Pandemic ‘Wipes Out’ 2020 HPC Market Growth, Flat to 12% Drop Expected

March 31, 2020

As the world battles the still accelerating novel coronavirus, the HPC community has mounted a forceful response to the pandemic on many fronts. But these efforts won't inoculate the HPC industry from the economic effects of COVID-19. Market watcher Intersect360 Research has revised its 2020 forecast for HPC products and services, projecting... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weather at Exascale: Load Balancing for Heterogeneous Systems

March 30, 2020

The first months of 2020 were dominated by weather and climate supercomputing news, with major announcements coming from the UK, the European Centre for Medium- Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Q&A Part Two: ORNL’s Pooser on Progress in Quantum Communication

March 30, 2020

Quantum computing seems to get more than its fair share of attention compared to quantum communication. That’s despite the fact that quantum networking may be Read more…

By John Russell

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

[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

Conversation: ANL’s Rick Stevens on DoE’s AI for Science Project

March 23, 2020

With release of the Department of Energy’s AI for Science report in late February, the effort to build a national AI program, modeled loosely on the U.S. Exascale Initiative, enters a new phase. Project leaders have already had early discussions with Congress... Read more…

By John Russell

Servers Headed to Junkyard Find 2nd Life Fighting Cancer in Clusters

March 20, 2020

Ottawa-based charitable organization Cancer Computer is on a mission to stamp out cancer and other life-threatening diseases, including coronavirus, by putting Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Kubernetes and HPC Applications in Hybrid Cloud Environments – Part II

March 19, 2020

With the rise of cloud services, CIOs are recognizing that applications, middleware, and infrastructure running in various compute environments need a common management and operating model. Maintaining different application and middleware stacks on-premises and in cloud environments, by possibly using different specialized infrastructure and application... Read more…

By Daniel Gruber,Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

[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

Julia Programming’s Dramatic Rise in HPC and Elsewhere

January 14, 2020

Back in 2012 a paper by four computer scientists including Alan Edelman of MIT introduced Julia, A Fast Dynamic Language for Technical Computing. At the time, t Read more…

By John Russell

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

[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

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

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve 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

IBM Unveils Latest Achievements in AI Hardware

December 13, 2019

“The increased capabilities of contemporary AI models provide unprecedented recognition accuracy, but often at the expense of larger computational and energet Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

IBM Debuts IC922 Power Server for AI Inferencing and Data Management

January 28, 2020

IBM today launched a Power9-based inference server – the IC922 – that features up to six Nvidia T4 GPUs, PCIe Gen 4 and OpenCAPI connectivity, and can accom Read more…

By John Russell

University of Stuttgart Inaugurates ‘Hawk’ Supercomputer

February 20, 2020

This week, the new “Hawk” supercomputer was inaugurated in a ceremony at the High-Performance Computing Center of the University of Stuttgart (HLRS). Offici Read more…

By Staff report

Summit Joins the Fight Against the Coronavirus

March 6, 2020

With the coronavirus sweeping the globe, tech conferences and supply chains are being hit hard – but now, tech is hitting back. Oak Ridge National Laboratory 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