Article

Panasas overhauls parallel clustered NAS platform, eyes enterprise

Beth Pariseau, Senior News Writer
Panasas Inc. is updating and expanding its parallel clustered NAS platform in hopes of taking it from almost exclusively high-performance computing (HPC) environments into the enterprise.

The Panasas ActiveStor 4000 and ActiveStor 6000 storage clusters replace the company's ActiveStor 3000 and ActiveStor 5000 models, with up to twice the performance per shelf. Panasas is also rolling out the ActiveStor 200 model for secondary storage.

The ActiveStor 4000 will hold 20 TB or 15 TB shelves, depending on drive size. It also has 10 GB of cache per shelf, making its performance in internal lab tests 600 MBps. The ActiveStor 4000 also features

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Panasas' Tiered Parity, a feature in version 3.2 of its ActiveScale clustered file system (CFS) software. Tiered Parity uses open standards-based Error Correcting Codes (ECC) to calculate parity algorithms for the data on each sector in a disk drive so data can be reconstructed if one sector becomes corrupted. Panasas also adds support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet and NDMP with the ActiveStor 4000.

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In addition to everything the ActiveStor 4000 supports, the ActiveStor 6000 supports 10 TB shelves and 40 GB of cache per shelf, matching ther 4000 model's 600 MBps aggregate performance. The ActiveStor 6000, designed for high-transaction, random I/O type applications in the enterprise, will include Panasas ActiveImage snapshots and ActiveGuard synchronous metadata, and data replication for failover or user self-recovery.

Both new models also can "walk the file tree" -- displaying all data in a file system -- three times faster than before, thanks to faster algorithms. Each parallel system supports up to 12,000 clients, up from 5,000.

On the other end of the performance spectrum, the ActiveStor 200 holds up to 104 TB in a five-shelf configuration with Gigabit Ethernet support, tiered parity and NDMP.

The new systems are being unveiled as Panasas anticipates a move to parallel storage for enterprise scale-out over the next three years, according to Matt Reid, director of product marketing. "The whole world is going parallel," he said. Panasas is making its gateways fully parallel with this release. Previously, Panasas offered clustered gateways only for NFS and CIFS access to its systems.

Panasas is also working on making its systems more accessible to the average NAS shop with support planned for Parallel NFS (pNFS). Parallel NFS, part of the NFS v 4.1 spec, is expected to be ratified by the end of this year with new products supporting it rolling out throughout 2009.

Reid said pNFS will hopefully replace the company's proprietary DirectFlow parallel access protocol. "Certain features may take a while to go to pNFS, but without it the parallel storage concept can't be broadly applied to the wider market," he said.

Panasas will earn some customers' confidence with the new pNFS because of its managerial pedigree, said Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Terri McClure. "They've got a celebrity on staff in Garth Gibson," she said, referring to the company's founder and chief technology officer, who has spearheaded Panasas' Tiered Parity and the wider pNFS standards initiatives, but is perhaps best known for co-inventing RAID while a graduate student.

Most enterprise shops will probably wait for pNFS and the Panasas enterprise features, such as snapshots and replication to mature, but McClure said some companies will dive in if they know pNFS is on the roadmap as unstructured data keeps growing. "If your application is data-starved, and you need more performance, Panasas should be considered," she said.

In the meantime, there are some items on the company's to-do list, such as asynchronous replication. "It needs to mature a bit, and Panasas needs to earn its stripes with enterprise features just like everybody else," according to McClure.

Pricing for the ActiveStor 6000 starts at $5 per gigabyte, or $50,000 for a minimum configuration of 10 TB. The ActiveStor 4000 is priced at around $70,000 for a 20 TB shelf, and the ActiveStor 200 starts at $124,800 for the 104 TB configuration. The ActiveStor 200 is currently available, and the ActiveStor 4000 and ActiveStor 6000 will be available in September.

Related Topics: NAS hardware, VIEW ALL TOPICS

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