Cluster storage is now the norm

Cluster storage is now the norm for high performance computing systems. Six years ago, as cluster storage was just beginning to ramp up in production use, conventional, nonlinked storage systems constituted about 80 percent of the HPC market.

That has all changed dramatically. Cluster systems took a majority (about 52 percent) of the market in the first quarter of 2006 and haven't looked back, according to research company IDC. Storage clusters are now comfortably past the 60 percent mark in market share, researchers reported.

Clustered storage is the linking of multiple storage servers to form a redundant ring of storage devices. Clustered storage systems typically perform multiple read/write requests through parallel access lines to the requesting computer. Old I/O bottlenecks in single access lines quickly go away in clustered systems with parallel lines.

This new software package provides users and applications with instant access to always-online digital content.

Besides the obvious benefit of more speed, what are the main advantages of using a cluster storage system, as opposed to a conventional, modular SAN (storage area network) or NAS (network-attached storage)?

There are three major advantages to cluster storage systems, Robin Harris, an analyst with Data Mobility Group, told eWEEK.

"First, they can scale I/O bandwidth to meet the most demanding data-intensive applications in financial modeling, biotech, geophysical and digital media," Harris said.

"Second, management is much simpler because, as the capacity grows, you still access a single system rather than multiple arrays or filers spread across a SAN," he said. "Third, cluster storage is highly modular, so you buy what you need when you need it, and the performance and capacity scale as you add to it."

Isilon Systems offers what it calls an intelligent automated clustered storage system powered by its own OneFS operating system, which is based on open-source FreeBSD. Rackable Systems, Exanet, Hitachi Data Systems and Network Appliance make up the rest of the leading cluster storage vendors.

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