Storage highlights from Supercomputing '08

By Kevin Komiega and Dave Simpson

 -- A number of storage vendors used this week's Supercomputing '08 (SC08) conference in Austin to launch (or in some cases, pre-announce) systems designed primarily for high performance computing (HPC) environments. A number of other vendors announced partnerships. Here are some brief highlights from the show.

QLogic debuted its latest InfiniBand wares in the form of the 12000 Series of 40Gbps quad data rate (QDR) InfiniBand switches.

The 12000 Series, which includes blade, edge and director switches, incorporates advancements in port count density, power consumption, network utilization, and performance.

The switches are based on a new ASIC design called TrueScale, and use the company's Virtual InfiniBand Fabric (vFabric) technology to boost network utilization and provide adaptive routing and QoS.

The switches can scale from 18 to 864 ports, consume 7.8 watts per port, and clock in with a total aggregate bandwidth of 51.8Tbps.

According to Kevin Judd, senior product marketing manager at QLogic, the InfiniBand switches will feature gateway capabilities to access 10GbE and 8Gbps Fibre Channel networks.

Judd says the InfiniBand switches and adapters have been designed with an eye toward protecting legacy hardware investments.

"Being that we're a Fibre Channel company, we developed gateway options that allow users to go from the InfiniBand framework into SANs, WANs and LANs," says Judd.

The InfiniBand switches are targeted at HPC environments with clustered applications, such as oil & gas exploration, weather forecasting, auto design and financial modeling.

A variety of vendors plan to certify interoperability of their HPC products with QLogic's 12000 Series, including AMD, ANSYS, CD-adapco, Clustercorp, Corning Cable Systems, Data Direct Networks, LSI, Network Equipment Technologies, Obsidian Strategics, Panasas, Panduit, Platform Computing, RAID Inc., RNA, Symmetric Computing and Zarlink Semiconductor.

Pricing for the 12000 Series has yet to be announced. The switches will be available in early 2009.

Also on the InfiniBand front at SC '08, Obsidian Strategics and Adva Optical Networking introduced a jointly developed platform that combines Obsidian's Longbow line of InfiBand range extension products with Adva's high-capacity optical transport technologies, enabling companies to implement SAN, clustering, remote visualization and data center expansion applications. The 100Gbps Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) FSP3000 InfiniBand link scales up to 80 4X SDR InfiniBand links through a single dedicated fiber pair.

LSI enhanced its Engenio 7900 HPC storage system with the addition of the Engenio DE6900 high-density SATA enclosure and 8Gbps Fibre Channel host connectivity (up to 16 ports). The DE6900 is a 4U enclosure with up to 60 3.5-inch 1TB drives, and provides a 2.8X density increase compared to LSI's 16-drive Fibre Channel enclosure. The company claims that the increased density translates into a 30% savings on power consumption and more than a 65% savings on floor space. The 7900 storage system also supports 4Gbps Fibre Channel and 20Gbps InfiniBand external connections.

iQstor Networks introduced the iQ5200, which packs up to 52TB in a 4U disk array (13TB per U using 1TB SATA drives) that users can scale to more than one petabyte. Features include dual (active-active) controllers, and 3+1 redundancy for fans and power supplies. Each controller has four 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports and four iSCSI Gigabit Ethernet ports with hardware-based TCP/IP offload engines (TOEs). The array also has four 4x 3Gbps SAS ports for capacity expansion via iQstor's J5200 SBOD enclosure.

Pricing for the iQ5200 with 52TB of SATA capacity starts at $34,995. The systems are expected to ship in the first quarter of 2009.

Adaptec highlighted its Intelligent Power Management "green" technology in demos with Hitachi Global Storage Techologies and Super Micro Computer. Adaptec officials claim that the IPM feature provides up to a 40% reduction in energy consumption. Intelligent Power Management is implemented on Adaptec's Series 5 and Series 2 RAID controllers, with either SAS or SATA drives, and can be operated in three power states: normal, standby, and power off.

Chelsio Communications, a provider of 10GbE adapters and ASICs, announced an eight-node IP SAN cluster at SC08 that is priced at less than $30,000. The cluster is in part the result of a partnership with Penguin Computing. The cluster includes 32 compute cores and 40GB of memory; a 1TB IP SAN with storage services such as SAN/NAS support, snapshots, mirroring and volume management; cluster management software; and a 24-port 10GbE switch based on the FocalPoint chip from Fulcrum Microsystems; and Chelsio's 10GbE Unified Wire adapters. The cluster also includes 16 10GbE uplink ports for scaling. The cluster can run storage, clustering and networking traffic.

In Fulcrum's booth, the company demonstrated its "Monaco" 24-port SFP+ switch reference design with Chelsio's Unified Wire adapters to demonstrate how lossless Ethernet fabrics can be built. The demo featured concurrent HPC, NFS, web, multicast video and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) data flows. Monaco is a 1U 10GbE switch.

In an effort to speed network performance and increase server utilization, Alacritech rolled out a new line of TCP offload engine (TOE) technologies with the launch of its first 10GbE multi-purpose accelerators. 

Alacritech's 10GbE Scalable Network Accelerator (SNA) family includes the SEN3001EF PCI-e fiber SNA and the SEN3001ET PCI-e copper SNA. The adapters give users a single device with NIC functionality, stateless offload support and Dynamic TOE functionality, according to Doug Rainbolt, Alacritech's vice president of marketing.

The company's Dynamic TCP Offload technology is natively integrated with Microsoft's TCP Chimney Offload architecture and supports Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. Stateless offloads are offered through the 10GbE SNA's NIC feature and will be supported under Linux, OpenSolaris, Windows and Mac OS X.

In addition, Alacritech's 10GbE SNAs will provide Dynamic TOE support for Hyper-V when Microsoft makes its next major Windows 2008 release available. The 10GbE SNA will also support VMware ESX, including NetQueue, in mid 2009.

Rainbolt calls the 10GbE SNAs "NICs on steroids" and claims they provide more bang for the buck. "The list pricing is $1,299, which is close to that of a NIC, but the SNAs deliver both NIC and TCP offload functionality with much better throughput and lower power consumption," says Rainbolt. "Our argument is: Why buy a NIC when you can buy a super NIC?"

Alacritech's optical 10GbE SNA is expected to ship in the first quarter of 2009, with the copper 10GbE SNA due later in the year.

Verari Systems and Caringo jointly developed, and introduced at the Supercomputing '08 show, a clustered storage platform dubbed DataValet that is designed to store unstructured content. The "self-managing" system is available in Verari's BladeRack 2 X-Series platforms and FOREST containers, and is built on Caringo's content-addressed storage (CAS) technology and a scale-out architecture.

Voltaire announced that it is working with Panasas on jointly-developed products, and announced that the two companies have completed certification testing of Voltaire's 20Gbps Grid Director InfiniBand switches and InfiniBand-to-10GbE gateways with Panasas' ActiveStor 6000 Parallel Storage Cluster.

Finally, DataDirect Networks (DDN) announced that Oak Ridge National Laboratory has selected DDN's S2A9900 storage systems as part of what is expected to be one of the world's largest and fastest file systems. Codenamed "Spider," the system is designed to deliver up to 240GBps of Lustre file system performance and to support multiple supercomputers in a configuration with more than 10 petabytes of storage capacity. Spider will include 48 DDN S2A9900 storage systems, each configured with 280 1TB disk drives, for a total capacity of 13,440TB.

This article was originally published on November 21, 2008