Panasas pumps up PanFS speed

Panasas today claimed the latest iteration of PanFS parallel file system software is “the fastest parallel file system at any price point”.

With the upgrade PANFS can now run on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) X86 servers. Previously, it PanFS shipped on Panasas ActiveStor hardware only.

PanFS on ActiveStor Ultra hardware offers unlimited performance scaling in 4 GB/s building blocks. It has a balanced node architecture that optimises networking, CPU, memory and storage capacity to prevent hot spots and bottlenecks.

Panasas ActiveStor hardware.

Panasas specialises in storage for high performance computing shops. It says PanFS is fast because:

  • Small files are stored on low-latency flash SSD
  • Large files are stored on low-cost, high-capacity, high-bandwidth HDD
  • Metadata is stored on low-latency NVMe SSD
  • An NVDIMM intent-log stages both data and metadata operations
  • Unmodified data and metadata are cached in DRAM

Panasas provides bandwidth numbers normalised to 100 disk drives from different vendors;

  • IBM ESS – 7.2GB/sec from 100 disks
  • Lustre – 7.6GB/sec per 100 disks
  • BeeGFS – 7.8GB/sec
  • Panasas ActiveStor Ultra – 13.0GB/sec per 100 disks

Panasas’s fastest parallel file system claim is unequivocal, with no reference to drive type. Taken literally it means that it is faster than WekaIO Matrix which has demonstrated SpecSFS 2014 and STAC benchmark wins. 

An ESG report found that 10 servers, each with 2 SSDs, delivered 23.8GB/sec read bandwidth using WekaIO’s Matrix filesystem. Normalising that to 100 drives means that WekaIO could pump out 119GB/sec from all-flash servers, a 9x speed superiority compared to Panasas.

Panasas’ explanation

We asked Panasas about its fastest file system claim and a spokesperson said: “We are not saying PanFS is the fastest file system full stop. Our claim is that PanFS is the fastest parallel file system at any price point, when taking into account the price/performance it delivers for a given configuration, compared to the competition.”

Ah, that’s different and here comes the admission that there are speedier products: “We acknowledge that there are faster all-NVMe based parallel file system systems, but they come at a much higher price point, and some would say they are too expensive for the majority of HPC use cases that require both high performance and high capacity at an affordable price. (Our performance blog focused solely on the HDD-based parallel file systems that meet all three of those requirements: high performance, high capacity and affordable pricing). 

“For example, we have been offering 1PB usable capacity of PanFS on ActiveStor Ultra parallel file system hybrid (NVMe, SSD, HDD) storage for $150,000 for hardware and software. From what we have seen, all-NVMe parallel file system storage systems cost over $1,000,000 for 1PB of hardware capacity and $1,000,000 per year for the software subscription covering 1PB of capacity. That’s 40X more expensive than PanFS on ActiveStor Ultra over a 5-year life cycle.”

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