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Spectra developed its own disk array specifically for archiving data

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September 20, 2013

Tape library vendor Spectra Logic has added a new product to its data archiving offerings-- the nTier Verde disk array.

Tape-based data protection vendors like Overland Storage and Quantum have gone into the disk array business to offset declining tape revenues.

And for the most part, overall results have varied greatly-- financial impact has been dismal at best and near company-killing at worst. Some some IT industry analysts are now questioning Spectra's timing to move forward in that direction.

One reason is that Spectra makes money from its tape libraries and revenues have in fact been growing steadily for many quarters, enabling the company to invest growing amounts each year. For the past six months, about ten to twelve percent of its revenues have been invested into R&D.

Spectra has developed its own disk array specifically for archiving data, not for storage. Neither is it for data backups, having no virtual tape library (VTL) functionality or any support for specific backup data transport protocols or deduplication.

And object storage isn't its purpose either, since the interfaces are just NFS and CIFS, meaning only files are transferred to and from the server chassis. It is simply an archive filer.

The bulk capacity of the disk array comes in 4U rackmount enclosures. The disks are enterprise class 3.5-in hard drives with a SAS interface, not consumer grade ones, and support an enterprise archive duty cycle. There are hot spares and what Spectra calls an intelligent rebuild process if a disk fails.

There are so-called cold pair and warm pair units for higher availability. Servers access the array nodes using 4 x 1 GigE and 2 x 10 gigE links.

There is a 2U or 4U master node to which 4U expansion nodes are connected. Maximum capacity is 1.7 PB currently. Assuming 6 TB drives arrive in 2014, maximum storage capacity will rise to 2.6 PB, and go on to 3.4 PB in 2015 with 8 TB drives.

Additionally, new disks can be added to expand capacity in place. A full rack contains 431 drives, the 1.7 PB in nine expansion nodes, holding 44 drives, with a single master node, which holds from 4 to 35 4 TB drives in a 4U form factor and up to 11 in a 2U form factor.

The system features data compression, thin provisioning, snapshots and support for future higher capacity drives. The array software carries out data integrity checks, using proprietary checksums, in the background, analogous to tape library data integrity checks.

Strata View is a new software interface enabling users to choose protection against one, two or three drive failures. In effect you can choose between protection and performance.

Spectra says an nTier Verde array can be in production use in 30 minutes or so after unpacking starts. Firstly, it has not been publicly announced. Information is available on Spectra's website but there has been no press release and the marketing has been deliberately low-key.

Secondly, it's called the nTier Verde, as in "Verde", meaning green. But it isn't green: it's a disk drive array like other disk drive arrays, and keeps its disks spinning and cooled.

In other IT news

Data Direct Networks (commonly known as DDN), which is in the business of WOS (Web Object Scaler) technology, can now store trillions of Gigs of data with its trillion-object WOS-7000 disk storage array.

Primarily known for high-performance data storage, DDN has long said that it would build a trillion-object WS array. The fist time DDN made mention of it was two years ago after it announced WOS 2.0.

Last year, V2.5 enabled DDN to claim it offered bulk (read: petabyte plus) data storage at a lower cost than Amazon. But that "only" scaled up to 250 billion objects.

Ten months later, WOS 3.0 hit the tantalizing trillion-object mark and is accompanied by new hardware-- the WOS-7000, which tops the previous WOS-6000 array, with which it co-exists in the same environment.

Overall, WOS arrays have been described as sort of filers that store objects and can be geo-clustered as nodes in public clouds. The cloud scales with node addition. Files are read in a single operation, which speeds data access time. DDN says other file storage devices need up to ten reads per file.

The WOS-7000 object storage array has an object server inside its 4U enclosure, and sports a 60-bay tray with 40 to 60 SAS and SATA disk and solid state drives supported. There is dual-port access to them for high availability.

The server has dual hot swap controllers which use dual 8-core Intel CPUs and have up to 128 GB of memory. Access is via four 10 GigE ports, a 40 gigE port or InfiniBand, and there are dual redundant power supplies. It also comes with WOS 3.0 software installed.

DDN says it can read up to 31,000 objects per second and deliver 2.4 GB/sec of read object data. A rackful of WOS-7000s can store more than 2.5 PB of data, up to about 34 percent more than previous WOS arrays.

DDN's systems can be clustered, with each cluster supporting up to 1 trillion objects across 256 WOS object storage servers. A cluster of 32 WOS cluster nodes can be architected into a single namespace consisting of over 32 trillion unique object IDs without slowing performance.

And WOS-7000s can also be clustered across geographic distances, and DDN says there can be a federation of WOS clusters storing up to 983 PB and 32 trillion objects in a single WOS namespace.

It also claims that the performance is far better than public clouds-- WOS technology can deliver more than 200x performance increases over the current peak performance of even the largest public cloud storage services. This includes object retrieval of 256 million objects per second, throughput of over 10 terabytes per second with object retrieval latency of less than 50 milliseconds.

The third major release of the WOS software supports parallel search of user-defined metadata across a distributed WOS cloud of as many as 8,000 WOS cluster nodes. DDN's marketers say users can index and contextualize petabytes of data in milliseconds versus days, which enables faster analysis of vast data sets.

Information can be fed into WOS from DDN's GRID Scaler parallel file storage system, providing both file and object storage on the WOS platform. The WOS cluster can be managed through a single pane of glass utility.

DDN adds that its object storage driver eliminates the need for local file systems and enables the object storage cluster to write native objects directly and contiguously to disk, which eliminates fragmentation, increases performance utilisation by up to 10x versus Linux file system-based solutions and ensures 99 percent disk capacity utilization. The Linux comparison is with OpenStack Swift.

Source: Spectra Logic.

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