Panasas continues to move beyond HPC with next generation of scale-out NAS

The big breakthrough for Panasas here is the new ASD-100 disaggregated Director Blade, which allows metadata to be accessed twice as fast as the previous product generation.


Sunnyvale CA-based Panasas, a long-time maker of scale-out NAS systems aimed at the high-performance computing [HPC] market, has unveiled the next-generation of their ActiveStor scale-out NAS solution. While it packs plenty of capacity and bandwidth, it also positions the product to expand its presence in the broader enterprise space.

Panasas has been shipping product since 2004.

“When we started, we made HPC storage for large national labs,” said Jim Donovan, Panasas’s CMO. “Over time, we evolved the portfolio to be mix of commercial and traditional HPC, and have been moving into enterprise applications in government, higher education, oil and gas, and more recently, life sciences and manufacturing, The newest industry in which we have had success is media and entertainment, in areas like render farms for animation rendering, and post-production editing.”

With this new and more configurable release, Donovan said the theme is ‘Future-Ready Starts Now.’

“We are establishing the foundation of the Panasas storage solution going forward, with some significant engineering changes,” he said.

While the existing product is the AS20, a 4U chassis with 11 blades, the new ASH-100 has a new architecture.

“We took the director functionality from a blade and put it in a node, so that slot now goes to another  storage blade, increasing density,” said Dale Brantly, Panasas’ Director of Systems Engineering.

In addition to offering very high capacity of 12TB of HDD and 1.9 TB of SSD in a parallel hybrid storage system, a high amount of flexibility has been added to the design.

“We have also added another dimension of configuration,” he said. “There used to be a fixed ratio of SSDs to HDDs. Now that can be adjusted to configure the system to change the ratios, based on workloads.  It’s different from the current generation because you can interchange HDD size with SSD size. You can have more SSDs for small file workload, or more HDDs if the workload is streaming large files.”

ActiveStor also doubles productivity through metadata acceleration.

“We have cut the data accessibility time in half,” Brantly said. “With the expansion of small files to the millions, validating the metadata has become an issue. Reading the data now takes only 10 per cent of the time it takes to actually find the data.”

Panasas tackles this issue with a disaggregated Director Blade (ASD-100), which has double the raw CPU power and RAM capacity of previous Director Blades.

“The disaggregated Director blade supercharges the system,” Brantly said.  “This ability to access metadata twice as fast is the most significant piece here. The ASD-100 is the foundation for our next generation of storage.”

Customers are able to add any number of ASD-100s to drive exactly the level of metadata performance they need. it also acts as a gateway for standard data-access protocols such as NFS and SMB. The ASD-100 uses non-volatile dual in-line memory modules (NVDIMMs) to store metadata transaction logs, and Panasas is contributing its NVDIMM driver to the FreeBSD community.

Panasas has also announced PanFS 7.0, the new release of their plug and play parallel file system.

“It has a dynamic new user interface that provides for asynchronous notification of system changes, without any user interaction,” Brantly said.

“The secret sauce in this is our DirectFlow parallel data access protocol for Linux,” Brantly added. It has a 15 per cent improvement in throughput as a result of enhancements to memory allocation and readahead.

The ASH-100 is shipping now. The ASD-100 and PanFS 7.0 will be available in Q1 2018.