Striking a Balance with HPC Environments

Users are increasingly prioritizing High-Performance Computing (HPC) applications, which in turn intensifies the demand for storage solutions that are not only high in performance but also scalable and efficient, tailor-made to support these sophisticated HPC scenarios. Industry forecasts by Emergen Research project that investment in high-performance computing will surpass $66 billion by the year 2028, signaling a significant market expansion and the growing importance of cutting-edge computational capabilities.

As HPC continues to grow, the workloads will also increase, which equates to continued pressure on storage and data management within the HPC space.  When it comes to storage,  HPC is often focused on the primary workloads and storage backups are not always the focus.  Backup storage and primary storage however are two sides of the same coin, and ignoring one can lead to challenges for the other, which could lead to increased cost, Complexity, or poor performance. 

Designing High-Performance Computing (HPC) systems necessitates a delicate balance between the lightning-fast operations of primary storage and compute resources, and the more capacity-oriented demands of data backup and archival storage. While speed is paramount for processing and delivering HPC workload results quickly, archives necessitate a focus on storage volume and data longevity, which historically has slowed down the system’s main functions due to the cumbersome process of data transfer.

A transformative approach would be a storage solution that merges high-speed access with ample capacity, eliminating the need to compromise between operational efficiency and comprehensive data preservation. Such a breakthrough would enable seamless archiving processes that are as frequent as necessary, without impinging on the HPC system’s performance, thus ensuring a robust and flexible computing environment.

HPC environments pose unique challenges for backup/archival storage;

  • Scale: Managing the vast data sets characteristic of HPC workloads presents a significant challenge. Given the premium placed on performance within HPC, the efficient movement and handling of data at scale is not just preferable, but essential.
  • Data preservation: Historical data sets are not built into most HPC workloads’ primary storage devices, because in many cases the results cannot be re-created, or can be very expensive to re-run.  So backup storage and backups are important as having historical data may only be possible with backups.
  • Overhead: Concerns of having both large data sets on primary storage and also on secondary or backup storage can seem too costly, or overly burdensome to manage.  Any HPC backup storage must be able to meet performance at scale and allow for cost flexibility while doing so.
  • Cost of capacity-based storage:  capacity-based storage that is cost-effective typically isn’t performance-minded.  This is fine for holding data for long periods of time, however, in the HPC environment, getting the data to the archive is a performance-intensive operation.  Finding a bridge from the front-end HPC storage to cost-effective archival storage has been a challenge.

How can StorONE help the HPC backup storage challenges?

Flexibility at scale. StorONE has a unique storage engine that allows for more efficient use of storage media.  Further StorONE has the ability to drive the media in a system over 80% of the stated performance metrics of said piece of media.  Combine this performance advantage along with the ability to leverage any media (NVMe, Flash, HDD) fronted by less complicated storage controllers.  

StorONE has the ability to leverage large/dense storage media, which can drive down overall costs.  StorONE  against the normal objections to dense media of the overhead penalty when a drive fails in terms of drive rebuilds.  By using the unique vRAID technology, StorONE can quickly rebuild from dense media failures, for example, rebuilding a 20TB spinning drive in under three hours.  The other objection with dense capacity media is performance is not enough to allow for migration from the front-end HPC storage to the archival storage.  Again, StorONE has solved this issue with the ability to drive a piece of media to over 80% of its manufacturers’ performance specification, but to also allow for multiple types of media in the system.  One can utilize a small layer of performance-driven media to allow for quick migration from the HPC front end into the archive, but still have capacity-oriented media as the retention layer.  This will drive down costs per TB for archive storage and allow for archives and backups to happen based on business need, rather than controlled by performance concerns.

For example, a StorONE system with a small layer of flash and a layer of dense magnetic media is able to drive ingest rates that are significantly higher than the magnetic media alone is able to achieve while delivering line-speed levels of throughput on large sequential read access. This allows for data to be migrated to the archival storage quickly, be cost-effectively stored on capacity-based media and reduce the data retrieval time required when ready to process a given data set on an HPC system.  StorONE opens up a world where you can utilize the proper media types and quantities for performance while having an archive location that is geared towards rapid ingest/read speeds with all the data protection and cost optimization qualities required for the environment.

At StorONE, security isn’t an add-on; it’s embedded at the core of our storage platform. Unlike other providers that tack on security features later, often with extra costs and integration issues, our system is designed with built-in, foundational security measures. Immutable snapshots, electronic air-gapping, and multi-admin authorization are standard, ensuring granular control and robust data protection with the capability for rapid, frequent snapshots to safeguard against threats continuously.

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James Keating III

James Keating brings 20+ years of technology experience ranging from security and storage, to cloud and networking. Over the last 20 years James has led various IT teams of solution engineers and architects in such areas of Data Center Operations, Storage, and Security. He has a passion for bridging the gap between IT and business to allow for business outcomes and risk reduction. James Keating is currently StorONE’s Senior Sales Solutions Architect.

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