Panasas pumps up 'parallel storage' systems

By Dave Simpson

-- Aiming to go beyond, and deeper into, its technical/scientific and high performance computing (HPC) roots, Panasas has announced three new members in its ActiveStor lineup of NAS platforms -- the Series 7, 8 and 9 -- as well as data management features such as automatic storage tiering, asynchronous replication, and automated data migration.

ActiveStor systems are based on a parallel storage architecture where, in contrast to clustered NFS systems, the file servers are not in the data path. The systems leverage Panasas' ActiveScale File System and DirectFLOW data access technology.

In terms of performance, when configured with 10 Performance Modules per rack, maximum throughput ranges from 3.5GBps on the Series 7 to 6GBps on the Series 9, and I/Os per second (IOPS) range from 120,000 to 210,000. Capacity ranges from 200TB on the Series 7 to 160TB on the Series 9, while cache ranges from 50GB to 440GB.

Some of the new features will only be available on the high-end ActiveStor Series 9 (which won't be available until the second half of the year), including automatic tiered storage and support for 32GB single-level cell (SLC) solid-state disk (SSD) drives from Intel. Users can configure the Series 9 blades with three tiers: cache memory, Tier-0 SSD, and Tier-2 SATA drives, with the system automatically migrating data between tiers.

Larry Jones, Panasas' vice president of marketing, says that the cache tier (up to 4GB per blade) has an average access time of about 100 nanoseconds and typically stores key metadata. The SSDs, with average access times of about 100 microseconds, are used to store metadata and files less than 4KB in size, and the Tier-2 SATA drives typically store files larger than 4KB.

Although the company is still in testing mode, Jones predicts that the reliability of the SSDs drive will be equivalent to SATA drives because of Intel's wear-leveling technology and Panasas' wear-leveling enhancements to its ActiveScale software.

In June, Panasas plans to release the 3.4 version of its ActiveScale software, with a 40% improvement in single-client performance, support for 1GB and 4GB cache on blades, a disk migration utility, asynchronous replication and other features.

Panasas competes primarily with EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, NetApp and Sun, as well as vendors such as BlueArc, Ibrix and Isilon.

Related article:
Isilon expands NAS line, partners with Ocarina

This article was originally published on April 23, 2009