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Panasas refreshes with ActiveStor Ultra in push to the enterprise

Scale-out NAS maker Panasas wants to make its ActiveStor storage more attractive to enterprises by touting its ease of use and putting storage nodes on commodity hardware

Panasas has launched ActiveStor Ultra, a re-engineered version of its ActiveStor Prime scale-out NAS product, with big changes that include re-porting storage nodes to a Linux-based environment and putting them on commodity hardware.

The aim is to make its high-performance computing (HPC) storage more accessible to enterprise users.

Panasas’s ActiveStor Ultra is scale-out NAS based on its PanFS operating environment, with its parallel file system. This gives a Posix interface to allow interaction with applications that call for NAS storage, but with an object storage back end, per-file striping and erasure coding.

Scale-out NAS such as Panasas is aimed at use cases based around semi-structured file data such as HPC in manufacturing modelling and design, oil and gas exploration, machine learning and life sciences use cases, as well as high-throughput file work, such as movie processing.

Core to scale-out NAS is the parallel file system that allows the environment to scale automatically to new nodes as they are added.

Panasas hardware comes in two forms: 2U Director nodes, which provide controller and file system capability with features such as data protection; and Storage Nodes for capacity, with four per 4U shelf but with built-in processing power.

Since last year, Director nodes were built on Intel-based commodity hardware, but now Storage Nodes will be too, having previously come in proprietary format. So, from this release, Panasas ActiveStor Ultra will be available on a range of approved hardware.

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ActiveStor will also make use of data tiering between up to 8GB of NVDIMM and 500GB of flash in the Director for transaction logging, while Storage Nodes will contain up to 2TB of NVMe flash storage for metadata, up to 8TB in two SATA flash drives for small files that need IOPS, and up to 12 SATA spinning disk HDDs for large files where bandwidth is the priority.

Capacities per 4U shelf will range from 96TB to 288TB depending on drive sizes chosen. There is no set maximum number of nodes in an ActiveStor cluster. One customer, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, runs about 1,500 storage nodes with 100 directors.

Software architect Curtis Anderson said: “The main aims of the upgrade are re-engineering the software to allow its use with the latest hardware and to be able to port to other hardware platforms easily. Also, this makes the hardware more cost-effective, while making it more plug-and-play is better for enterprises.”

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