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DDN GridScaler NAS system gets flash-based makeover

DataDirect Networks (DDN) designs a denser GridScaler GS14K scale-out NAS with PCIe Gen 3 internal networking, embedded processing and ample memory for all-flash configurations.

DataDirect Networks Wednesday launched a faster, denser new model of its GridScaler scale-out network-attached storage appliance that is designed to support PCI Express-based all-flash configurations.

The 4U chassis of the new DDN GridScaler GS14K NAS system has 72 slots for 2.5-inch 12 Gbps SAS drives. Customers can use either all hard disk drives (HDDs), all solid-state drives or a combination of the two. SSD users also have the option in 48 slots to use low-latency, high-performance PCIe non-volatile memory express (NVMe) flash drives.

Customers could choose to load prior models of the DDN GridScaler product line with all SSDs, but the GS14K is the first model custom designed for all-flash configurations, according to Molly Rector, DDN's chief marketing officer. That design includes the internal PCIe Gen 3 internal networking, embedded processing and memory to drive the full performance of the SSDs and NVMe devices.

Each of the GS14K's two controllers has four 14-core Intel Haswell processors and 256 GB of DDR4 memory. DDN claims the 32 Gbps throughput in the 4U all-SSD or SSD-optimized hybrid GS14K is 39% better than the prior GS12K model in 28U.

The maximum capacity of a 4U GS14K all-flash or hybrid system is 276 TB. An HDD-only GS14K can store up 130 TB in a 4U system, or through expansion, 7 PB per rack. Each GS14K controller can power up to 20 enclosures, and each enclosure has 84 drives.

Laura Shepard, senior director of outbound marketing at DDN, said DDN has seen demand increasing for enterprise NAS products. She said some commercial users have found their data quadrupling or quintupling due to the influx of analytics and logistical, environmental or social media applications.

DDN has 2 scale-out NAS systems

DDN sells two scale-out NAS systems. DDN EXAScaler uses the open source Lustre parallel file system and targets high-performance computing customers with large client counts. GridScaler embeds IBM's General Parallel File System, now known as Spectrum Scale, and takes aim at enterprises looking for a broad range of storage system features. Potential GS14K users include financial service firms, life science organizations, manufacturers and Web, cloud, cable and telecommunications providers.

Parallel client access can boost performance with I/O-intensive applications.

Parallel client access can boost performance with I/O-intensive applications. GS14K also supports traditional NAS protocols, such as NFS and SMB3, plus OpenStack Swift and Amazon S3. New core capabilities DDN introduced with the GS14K include a Hadoop connector and enhanced encryption and quality of service for unstructured data.

The GS14K also supports the latest options for network connectivity, including 40 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and 100 GbE, EDR InfiniBand, and Omni-Connect, which is DDN's implementation of Intel's Omni-Path technology.

Like the prior GS12K model, DDN GS14K supports automated policy-based data movement to DDN GridScaler systems, DDN's Web Object Scaler object storage, tape for deep archive and Amazon S3 cloud storage. Shepard said DDN plans to offer cross compatibility between its GridScaler and EXAScaler products and add tiering to third-party object storage.

GS14K scales up and out

George Crump, founder and president of Storage Switzerland LLC, said a key differentiator for DDN GS14K in comparison to NAS competitors is the product's ability to scale up and scale out and sustain high performance with a small number of nodes.

"The challenge that most scale-out systems have is that they take too many nodes to get to high performance, or they take too many nodes to get to high capacity. People are beginning to learn that, the more nodes you add, the more latency you introduce because there's networking involved," Crump said.

Competitors include any high-performance NAS systems including higher-end NetApp boxes and products from companies such as Panasas, EMC's Isilon and Qumulo, according to Crump.

"There's a big difference between this [DDN GS14K] and traditional scale-out NAS because they've nailed the internode communication issues and because they can perform so well on a per-box basis," Crump said. "They just don't need as many nodes."

Crump said enterprises opt for a scale-out NAS system such as the DDN GridScaler GS14K when they have millions to billons of files and performance is "specifically critical." He said they would use object storage when they have billions or trillions of objects or files and when performance is "important but not critical."

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