Panasas Promotes Parallel Scale-Out NAS for HPC

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As the challenges associated with storing and managing big data, once the distinct headache of specialized sectors, such as scientific industries, academic research and government, become more of a mainstream concern, many storage players are rethinking traditional approaches as they move toward scale-out NAS deployments.

Scalability is indeed a hallmark of the ActiveStor solution backed by Panasas, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm specializing in high-performance, parallel storage technology.

“Our opportunity is expanding based on the unrelenting demand for scalable, high-performance storage, driven by the emergence of big data in all segments of the market,” Panasas CEO Faye Pairman said in a statement. “As more companies turn to data-intensive applications to drive their value, they realize that traditional enterprise storage technologies do not deliver the performance at scale they now require to remain competitive in their markets.”

The company’s flagship ActiveStor product is a parallel storage system geared for private clouds and based on a blade architecture that Panasas boasts can deliver “plug-and-play simplicity to large scale storage deployments.”

Panasas brought the first iteration of ActiveStor, based on industry-standard disk storage, to market in 2004, and it carved out a niche in providing parallel NAS to industries such as biosciences, energy, finance and government, as well as the university community. But as data demands grow, and more and more companies in all industries warm to an on-demand, cloud-based approach to storage, Panasas is looking to expand its footprint.

“Panasas is admittedly not as widely known as the behemoth storage vendors, but we are well known and respected by organizations in oil and gas exploration, who have had massive data challenges for years,” said Geoffrey Noer, senior director of product marketing at Panasas. “However, as the big data challenge moves to more mainstream enterprises, we’re steadily winning over new business because of our unique value propositions of extreme performance and simple manageability.”

Noer added, “As big data continues to get bigger, you’ll see Panasas continuing to grow its footprint in more mainstream markets.”

Panasas claims that ActiveStor, now in its fourth generation and dubbed ActiveStor 12, can scale to a maximum capacity of 6 petabytes and deliver a throughput of up to 150 gigabytes per second. The company’s approach is aimed at circumventing bottlenecks that can arise in conventional NAS deployments. By providing HPC cluster nodes with direct access in parallel to a single file system, ActiveStor speeds up application I/O performance. As an enterprise’s storage requirements increase, the system provides for the addition of individual blade chassis or entire racks in a linear scaling trajectory to the maximum performance specs that entails minimal disruption, what Panasas describes as a “pay as you grow” model.

That on-demand, cloud-oriented approach is integral to Panasas’ ActiveStor, and it fits neatly with the trends the company sees broadly taking hold in the storage industry.

“As more value is derived from big data sets, storage will move from highly centralized control … to a cloud-based architecture with on-demand storage and compute,” Noer said.

The ActiveStor appliance consists of Panasas’ blade architecture, designed and sold as a modular, “buy-as-you-go” package, and its PanFS storage operating system, which creates a single, high-performance body of storage under a global namespace.

Panasas positions PanFS as a favorable alternative to solutions such as those that pair Lustre or other parallel file system software with legacy storage block arrays, arguing that the consolidation of a parallel file system, volume manager and RAID engine into a single platform achieves superior performance and speed benchmarks, while providing for greatly simplified management.

Panasas sells directly through its sales representatives around the world as well as its network of channel partners.

Kenneth Corbin is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C. He has written on politics, technology and other subjects for more than four years, most recently as the Washington correspondent for, covering Congress, the White House, the FCC and other regulatory affairs. He can be found on LinkedIn here

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