Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/16/nec_soleil/

NEC flies into synchrotron sun

Work de SOLEIL

By Chris Mellor

Posted in The Channel, 16th July 2010 06:02 GMT

NEC Deutschland has supplied a 1.3PB storage system to the French SOLEIL synchrotron facility, using Promise VTrak storage systems, to store massive amounts of data created by computer simulations and experiments.

SOLEIL, an acronym for “Optimized Source of LURE Intermediary Energy Light,” is a research centre located near Paris. It runs an electron accelerator which produces exceptionally bright light across a wide range of wavelengths, from infra-red to x-ray, and including ultra-violet. The light characteristics, such as intensity, focus, stability, and polarisation, make it possible to observe both living and inert matter down to the atomic level.

It allows experiments to be carried out in areas such as biology, physics, the environment, materials science, and archaeology, both in fundamental research and applied or industrially-relevant research.

SOLEIL has an NEC supercomputer using Xeon 7300 and 7400 processors. It is developing a new 64-core one based on Xeon 7500 processors wrapped inside an Intel white box, not an NEC one.

The new storage system is called a Petascale Storage Solution and is a bit of a mystery. We're told it comes as three 48U racks with 640 disk drives, including a front-end NEC HPC 2424Rb-4 server. There is nothing on NEC's website pages about this server and a web search on its name comes up with zilch. NEC does have a server range, but there's nothing in that line of products with a name resembling this.

The system uses NEC VTrak E-Class storage systems. These turn out to be Promise VTrak E-Class storage products, and are enclosures containing both SAS and SATA drives with dual active-active RAID controllers and redundant, hot-swap power supplies and cooling.

We don't know the capacities of the SATA and SAS drives used, the total SAS and SATA capacity in the system or the number of E-Class enclosures. NEC says the design is cableless but we assume that servers using this storage system link to it using some form of cabling.

NEC's parallel file system product, LXFS, is not used at SOLEIL. Instead a clustered file system is used from Active Circle and is, NEC says: "adapted to the management of large volumes of data, natively protecting against errors, corruption and disasters and allowing for the implementation of a multi-tiered storage architecture."

It has integrated security and tiered storage management and "is being installed on all storage nodes". The Promise E-Class systems are not presented by Promise as cluster nodes, which means there is some form of clustering going on here with the VTraks formed into storage nodes.

We understand NEC and Promise have a close partnership but not an OEM relationship.

We did ask NEC about the missing pieces of information but it wasn't immediately able to respond. ®