Supercomputer Center Gets Super Storage Needs Met

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When it comes to demand for data storage, it’s hard to top the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC). With archived data stores doubling every 14 to 16 months since 1997, it’s no surprise that IT decision makers there were once again on the hunt for additional storage infrastructure. At the end of the day, they turned to Brocade Communication Systems for SAN switches and services.

A user of Brocade SAN solutions for almost five years, SDSC saw no need to change the relationship. In fact, the supercomputer center expanded it by contracting for technical support services too.

“We have 15 Brocade directors and quite a bit of complexity in our SAN,” said Brian Bannister, manager of SAN and Server Infrastructure at SDSC. “Our issues are so unique that working with multiple vendors, as we had in the past, doesn’t work. Working directly with Brocade, we get a faster response to our problems.”

The SDSC storage infrastructure consists of more than 500 storage devices, including midrange arrays from IBM and Sun Microsystems, Brocade switches with 1,500 ports, and a DataDirect Network Silicon Storage Appliance (S2A).

A world-renowned research center that supports engineering discoveries, 22-year-old SDSC has provided more than 10,000 researchers at 300 academic, government, and industrial institutions with powerful high-end computing resources. SDSC also serves as the data-intensive site lead in the NSF-funded TeraGrid, a multi-year effort to build and deploy the world’s first large-scale and production grid infrastructure for open scientific research in life sciences, geosciences, engineering, and other disciplines.

SDSC hosts a 4.4 teraflop IA 64 Linux cluster, 1.4 petabytes of online disk storage with more than 25 petabytes of archival storage, 220 terabytes of General Parallel File System mounted across the TeraGrid, and is connected to other national TeraGrid partners by a 20 Gbps cross-country backbone.

Full Speed Ahead

Along with the NSF-funded TeraGrid came a vastly growing need for storage at SDSC. “A single simulation could take one to two weeks of compute time and result in 100 terabytes of output,” said Bannister.

Not only did the supercomputing center require additional storage to hold the output from simulations, but also important data collections, such as oceanic information, seismic studies and astronomy information, including sky surveys.

“We already had a petabyte of storage from a mix of IBM and Sun storage,” said Bannister. “But now we’re allocating storage space to national researchers for databases, data collections, and for large compute platforms.”

About a year ago, SDSC purchased the DataDirect Network S2A 9950 storage system with one petabyte of capacity. Before that, the SDSC had 200 terabytes. To that the center connected 4Gb 48000 director switches from Brocade into the existing SAN fabric. The S2A is housed in the San Diego data center and serves a shared file system across the WAN to partner sites worldwide.

Nine sites make up the TeraGrid. Three of the sites have access to the SDSC production compute systems. The remainder will have access some time in the near future, according to Bannister.

The Brocade Director 48000 and 4Gb Director Class Switches, or Brocade SAN fabric, create pooled storage for file servers and the archive. The new Brocade addition improves SAN capacity and data transfer speed for the center’s IBM storage system.

“Brocade is the best solution for the number of ports we need to support storage and file servers, and gives us seamless integration with the existing SAN fabric,” said Bannister. “We looked at other solutions, but when it comes to interoperability, Brocade works best.”

Use of the 1,500 Fibre Channel ports is divided equally among compute systems, storage systems and for interconnecting the switches.

It appears there’s no end in site to the center’s data storage needs. According to Bannister, SDSC currently has 5 petabytes of stored data in its archives. “In a year and a half, that will double to 10 petabytes,” he said. The same doubling of storage holds true for online Fibre Channel and SATA, he added.

Supporting It All

Given the complexity in SDSC’s SAN infrastructure and the fact that all of the center’s computer systems connect to the SAN, it was an easy decision to partner with Brocade for Direct Support services, according to Bannister. “They’ve always given us good support,” he said.

The Direct Support plan includes round-the-clock technical phone support from engineers located at the vendor’s San Jose, Calif., facility. The plan also gives SDSC access to new product features and enhancements.

SDSC called in Brocade for initial deployment of the 48000 Director and today utilizes the service for standard support calls.

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Lynn Haber
Lynn Haber
Lynn works as an editor-at-large meeting with new and established channel partners in the IT and telecommunications ecosphere. She works to understand what motivates partners, vendors, and distributors as they navigate growth in a dynamic industry. Lynn has worked as a business and technology writer for magazines, journals, and online media, and has authored hundreds of articles on technology, communications, business management, employment and careers, industry, and products.

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