Western Digital tunes up ActiveScale object storage arrays

Western Digital has updated its ActiveScale object storage arrays, adding larger disks and a faster operating system.

WD sells two ActiveScale systems, the entry-level and modular P100 and the larger integrated or monolithic X100. Both are controlled by ActiveScale OS and use 12TB helium-filled disk drives in their scale-out pizza box-style enclosures.

ActiveScale rack cabinets

The updated models run v5.5 of the OS and use 14TB disk drives to increase array capacity. These provide 16 per cent greater capacity than 12TB drives and cost 2.5 to 5 per cent more. Their energy footprint is the same as the 12TB drives and they can fit into existing arrays.

We can safely assume that WD will support 16TB drives in the future, to give a further capacity jump.

The X100 is up to three times faster, with up to 75GB/sec bandwidth. WD claims this is the best in the object storage industry for secondary data – aka cold files.

With a new scale-out architecture providing near-linear performance growth, the system can scale up to a 9-rack behemoth with 74PB of raw capacity – more than 5,200 disk drives.

ActiveScale OS v5.5

ActiveScale OS moves from v5.4 to v5.5 and gets up to 3x performance boost from improved data path handling. It also gets a data pipeline notification service.

It has file performance balancing, with files and objects stored in different buckets. File placement is optimised for faster IO performance, particularly with large files.

There are two management facilities, with ActiveScale Cloud Management managing an ActiveScale instance. ActiveScale System Manager manages a group of ActiveScale instances.

Geo-spreading – the copying of data between three remote ActiveScale installations – has been enhanced to add eventual consistency, via Asynchronous replication, to the existing strong consistency. When an ActiveScale site ingests data it is distributed to the other two geo-spread sites in the background. This is useful for long-distance disaster recovery.

With data pipeline notification the completion of a media ingest session can be sent to Apache Kafka in real-time and a customer application started up to process the data. Metadata indexing can also be run on completion.

According to Erik Ottem, WD’s senior director for product marketing, this is the first step to dig ActiveScale arrays deeper in workflows and we can expect to hear more in the future.

V5.5 has a golden copy feature whereby the ActiveScale data is regarded as the single version of the truth. This is farmed out to analysis and test-and-development users to ensure they use appropriate data for their activities – in essence this is similar to the copy data managers such as Actifio and Delphix.

Lastly, power users can manage v5.5 via Amazon S3 so they can run ActiveScale as they wish without involving admin staff.


Western Digital is serious about the storage array system business, updating the IntelliFlash primary storage arrays two weeks ago and now refreshing ActiveScale.

Dell, Hitachi Vantara, IBM, NetApp and Pure Storage think it is necessary to integrate an in-house object storage business with their general storage product offerings. HPE takes the view that it only needs to partner, and does so with Cloudian and Scality.

Like the mainstream storage system players, WD has its own in-house offering with ActiveScale and, so too does DDN, with its WOS offering complementing its HPC, Nexenta and Tintri storage businesses.

Standalone object storage suppliers like Caringo, Cloudian and Scality are facing a maturing market centralising on S3 and file access protocols. Their task is to enhance their differentiation as general object storage gets commoditised underneath S3 and file access.

Perhaps HPE will help one of them out by suggesting acquisition discussions.