How do you backup a supercomputer?

Storage tapes next to a supercomputer

Posted on Friday, March 31, 2017

The Ohio Supercomputer Center has unveiled its latest acquisition this week, nicknamed the Owens Cluster after Olympic gold medallist and Ohio State alumni, Jesse Owens. Capable of performing 750 trillion calculations per second, the new supercomputer shares one key trait with its namesake – raw speed.

The cluster will increase the Center’s total computing capacity by 400%, and its storage capacity by 300%. Owens is built around Intel Broadwell Xeon-equipped Dell PowerEdge servers. These are complemented by 160 NVIDIA Pascal-based GPUs to boost peak performance, DDN’s Infinite Memory Engine, and interconnects built on Mellanox’s Enhanced Data Rate fabric.

Dell EMC has described the Owens cluster as being “one of the most significant HPC systems Dell has built.”

Vast capacity and surprising solution

The Owens deployment has coincided with an upgrade of the rest of the Center. Storage upgrades have increased total on-site capacity to 5.5 petabytes of disk storage to handle increasing workloads.

Although the Owens cluster is impressive, and the disk storage capacity vast, the most surprising addition has been in the backup and archiving provisions. Because the new upgrade also includes 5 terabytes of tape storage.

Tape – it just won’t die

The inclusion of tape archiving reveals an important truth – in the age of ultra-cheap disk storage and cloud replication, magnetic tape is still a viable, effective solution to demands for flexible archiving. As such, we can expect to see tape-based archiving in use for many years to come.

This also means that businesses currently using tape archiving units from StorageTek, or supplied by EMC via Quantum, have no need to replace them in the short term. Indeed, backed by a suitable third party maintenance agreement, these units could continue to provide a valuable service for many years to come.

And for any organization considering deploying an HPC supercomputer, it could be that tape is the archiving solution to your massive data retention needs.

Next steps

To obtain support for your tape archives, or to learn more about third party storage maintenance, please get in touch.