Feeds

Panasas on server flash cache: 'What problem are you solving?'

We don't need the speed, we don't heed the feed

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

ISC12 Storage array feeding of server flash caches is not needed for high-performance computing because network latency is negligible - according to parallel storage biz Panasas.

Geoffrey Noer, Panasas's senior product marketing director, tells the Reg:

"We are not under pressure from our customers to deliver more performance. In principle we could extend PanFS to include cache in servers but what problem are you solving? We don't see the problem. For all general purposes the latency of the network is invisible. We haven't seen a need for customers to use flash because the file system is so fast."

In enterprise storage the idea that applications can be speeded up by getting rid of storage network latency is gaining ground. EMC is leading the mainstream storage array suppliers' charge in this area with its VFCache, the placement of a PCIe flash card into servers and software enabling it to cache data from an EMC storage array and give applications virtually instantaneous access to it.

This follows on from pioneering work by start-ups like Fusion-io, whose ioDrive PCIe flash card products are being used by Facebook and others to give array I/O-bound application software a swift boot up the rump. You would think that what works with enterprise IT would work in the HPC world as well, where application execution speed is important and hundreds of compute nodes access tens of petabytes of data.

Panasas builds ActiveStor 11 and 12 storage systems using its PanFS parallel file system to deliver up to 1,600MB/sec write IOPS per storage shelf and 1,500 read IOPS to HPC compute nodes. Its systems scale up both capacity and I/O performance to 150GB/sec of bandwidth yet use bulk 3TB SATA disk drives, far from the fastest horse around the storage block.

Noer doesn't discount the idea of server cache feeding in future though.

"Exascale is down the road," he says, meaning that what uses petaflops and petabytes of storage today will be using exaflops and exabytes in a few years' time.

This growth in storage needs by HPC customers can't be ameliorated by using deduplication and compression, both common tactics used by all-flash array startups like Solidfire. Noer adds:

"In HPC, deduplication and compression are negative performance factors. HPC workloads are not generally compressible."

Noer said that Panasas sees its customers' HPC workloads as different from the random I/O-intensive enterprise workloads which benefit from flash data access acceleration in servers.

IBM's HPC architect, Crispin Keable, says GPFS – IBM's General Parallel File System – already supports storage tiering and he thinks his customers would see appreciable application acceleration from having flash-enhanced servers. He can foresee benefits that could be gleaned from having GPFS look after that server cache, and mentioned the idea of GPFS using flash itself to store file metadata and so spend less time looking up files and more time reading and writing data for clients. Panasas founder Garth Gibson is of a similar mind.

There may well be workload differences between Panasas and IBM HPC customers behind the two contrasting viewpoints. With Panasas emphasising its commercial credentials as an HPC supplier more strongly and with Exascale "down the road", it will be interesting to see how things develop. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Object storage bods Exablox: RAID is dead, baby. RAID is dead
Bring your own disks to its object appliances
Nimble's latest mutants GORGE themselves on unlucky forerunners
Crossing Sandy Bridges without stopping for breath
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.