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April 21, 2016

Exascale Storage Targets Big Data Archives

With exascale computing comes the requirement for exascale storage. Such a storage platform has emerged in the form of what is touted as the largest capacity tape storage library aimed initially at media and entertainment companies but also targeting HPC applications.

Spectra Logic of Boulder, Colo., unveiled its exascale tape storage system at this week’s National Association of Broadcasters annual trade show—hence, the media emphasis. However, Spectra Logic has previously worked with NASA’s Advanced Supercomputing Division at its Ames Research Center, where it deployed its first tape library with 22 petabytes of capacity.

The NASA tape library’s capacity has since grown to about one half an exabyte of archival storage, the partners said. NASA has deployed the exascale version of the Spectra system in its production HPC environment.

Based on that deployment, the storage specialist rolled out its first tri-media library at the broadcasters’ annual event that is compatible with standard linear tape-open (LTO) drives and media. The exascale platform also includes Oracle’s StorageTek tape drive technology. That addition means LTO could be integrated with existing systems and that current data could be migrated to other storage technologies.

Ultimately, the exacale tape library is intended to provide faster access to archived data, the company stressed.

That capability is enabled in part by a high-end robotic “transporter” in the tape library that boosts the tape mount rate. The company also claims a higher tape cartridge exchange performance compared to other tape library systems.

The exascale version also comes with a “deep storage gateway,” described as an object storage interface to tape that allows for storage expansion and easier migration of data from legacy systems.

Along with storage density, Spectra Logic said its TFinity tape storage system takes up half the datacenter space of previous systems by leveraging a three-dimensional design in place of slots. The footprint also was reduced with the introduction of custom containers that replace individual tape cartridges.

As archival storage requirements soar, a cold storage feature targeting exploding volumes of unstructured data provides additional “vault space” within a tape library. Robotics in the tape library provides access to data in cold storage. A “Terapack” is selected by the robotic system and moved to an active slot for data access.

The Terapack approach is designed to provide exascale storage capacity for LTO and two versions of TS1150 tape technology. A single library contains more than 53,400 LTO tape cartridge slots. The library can scale to 6.4 exabytes with LTO-7 and up to 8 exabytes with TS1150, Spectra Logic said.

(LTO-7, the “generation 7” release, is designed to demonstrate the economic viability of long-term data retention and archiving as businesses cope with mountains of big data. The Gen 7 standard includes partitioning functionality designed to allow users to present a tape-based file system via a linear tape file system.)

Spectra Logic also said the standard configuration also supports up to 120 tape drives.

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