New Converged Archive System, Power Gear Withdrawals
June 28, 2021 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Big Blue has all of the pieces to make an appliance for archiving all kinds of data, and so the company has done just that with the Converged Archive Solution announced last week.
This box doesn’t run IBM i, but in keeping with the theme “anything that makes Power Systems stronger makes IBM i last longer” we are telling you about it. Also, just like many IBM i shops have deployed storage area networks (SANs) to create a unified, shared storage array for their IBM i, AIX, z/OS, Windows Server, and Linux machines to share for block storage and centralized network-attached storage like NetApp filers to share file systems across machines, it makes sense to have a centralized object storage device that allows for the archiving of unstructured and other kinds of object storage as well as the archiving of data stored in file systems. That is what the Converged Archive Solution is all about. (Although I do wish that all IT vendors would remove the word solution from their vocabulary. . . .)
In announcement letter 121-049, IBM says that the Converged Archive Solution is based on a Power S924 server – like the one that many IBM i shops have as their production machine these days – equipped with Red Hat Enterprise Linux as well as the Spectrum Scale (formerly General Parallel File System, or GPFS, for those of you who are acquainted with the supercomputing space) file system and the Spectrum Archive Enterprise Edition, which quite frankly we do not know the origin of and IBM does everything in its power to hide. What we do know is that it implements the Linear Tape File System (LTFS), which is the data format used for long-term retention and portability across various archive media, including tape, optical drive, disk, and flash. Among other things, it implements Write Once Read Many (WORM) archiving, which keeps data from being tampered with after it is stored and which is an important aspect of modern archiving. Here is how the different editions of Spectrum Archive stack up:
With the combination of Spectrum Scale, which supports POSIX blocks, NFS and SMB files, and HDFS and S3/Switch objects, and Spectrum Archive, which speaks LTFS to tape, and single storage platform can be woven together that can do archiving to flash, fast disk, slow disk, and tape and do it all under a single namespace that looks about as close to single-level storage on an AS/400 as we have seen. (The AS/400 architecture turns disk into slow main memory, however, this turns tape into slow disk. Sorta.)
Anyway, the Converged Archive Solution takes a Power S24 with 64 GB of main memory and 37 TB of disk drives with RAID 6 data protection, adds RHEL 7 (not the more current RHEL 8) and lashes it to the outside world with 10 Gb/sec Ethernet ports. It then adds Spectrum Scale Data Management Edition 5.0 with a license for 37 TB of storage and Spectrum Archive Enterprise Edition with an unlimited scalability license, plus 40 hours of integration services and an optional 16 hours of LDAP integration services plus an optional TS4300 LTO-8 tape library with three tape LTO-8 drives and a 40 cartridge capacity. The disk bays and tape bays hanging off this puppy can scale up to 2 exabytes – that’s 2 million terabytes – of capacity, including FlashSystem all-flash arrays if you want to weave these in. You can cluster up to three Power S924 machines and up to a four TS4300 tape drives with a total of twelve tape drives to reach a 1 exabyte of compressed data capacity – and IBM says it can deploy it in less than five days. (I would think it would take a lot less time than that.)
The Converged Archive Solution bundle was available on June 25. Pricing was not revealed.
Now, moving on to the product withdrawals.
In announcement letter 921-061, we say a final goodbye to the BlueGene/Q supercomputer based on the PowerPC AS processor and the custom torus interconnect, which sees the end of its days on September 30. Not that anyone has bought one of these machines in years. A lot of them were replaced by Intel “Knights Landing” processor clusters based on Intel Omni-Path InfiniBand interconnects, and that product was a dead end, too. So we suspect that many of these supercomputer centers are pretty annoyed, so it is really no surprise that many of them are tapping machines made by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, often with AMD CPUs and GPUs.
Sadly, we see in announcement letter 921-063 that on June 30, IBM will withdraw the Power AC922 server, used in the “Summit” supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the “Sierra” supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, from marketing.
These withdrawals only matter inasmuch as it shows that IBM is not really focusing on supercomputing with the Power Systems family. Maybe Power10 will lay a new foundation – we certainly think it can be one. Let’s hope so. I am very excited by the prospects of memory area networks and the giant shared memory clusters that it will enable, all coming with Power10.