Los Alamos National Laboratory uses object-based storage to achieve high levels of scalability.
Any business grappling with unwieldy scalability should visit a federal lab sometime soon. Engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory process unprecedented amounts of information, but they can't afford to rest on their laurels. In two years, their requirements will probably increase more than tenfold.
For the lab, a teraflop represents a trillion floating point operations per second. These mathematical representations of operations complete little segments of military weapons-testing simulations. This week, Los Alamos will support 20 teraflop simulations processing information at speeds of 20-Gbytes per second.
"A single calculation might run for a year, and no single machine could stay up that long, so we use a Linux cluster with 12,000 processors to process many terabytes of data in very short times," says Gary Grider, group leader for high-performance systems integration at Los Alamos. "Two years from now, tests will be 300 teraflops, and we'll need 100,000 storage disks for performance. We continue to scale bigger and bigger."
To accomplish this, the lab uses object-based storage from Panasas Inc. The Panasas Active File System 2.0 in support of the Linux cluster lets the lab reach the performance levels it needs, at a current rate of about a gigabyte per second per teraflop. Parallel data access provides breakthrough performance, file locking lets multiple apps function well next to each other, and load balancing helps with business continuity.
"The object model lends itself to the parallel processing we need," Grider says. Panasas was the only vendor to respond to the lab's request for proposal that included support for 10 teraflops and the gigabyte per second speed, Grider says.
An industry analyst says the vendor and the lab are a good match. "Other vendors are starting on Linux clusters, but Panasas is driving innovation in developing scalable data solutions," says Addison Snell, an analyst at IT market research firm IDC. "It makes sense for Los Alamos to take this approach with its scalability needs."
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