NetApp releases storage platform for high-performance computing

Functionality is 'light-years beyond,' user says

NetWork Appliance Inc. today announced an upgrade to its Ontap operating system that offers the ability to expand to petabyte-size storage capacity under a single name space.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based NetApp is now shipping the Data Ontap GX storage operating system, which is an upgraded version of its Data Ontap 7G high availability operating system.

Aimed at high-performance computing environments, the upgraded Data Ontap operating system includes global name space technology from Spinnaker Networks Inc., which NetApp purchased in 2003,

Data Ontap GX is designed to let users in fields such as entertainment, electronic design and seismic research virtualize NetApp's FAS6070 and FAS3050 storage arrays to create a single pooled storage system.

Industrial Light & Magic, the company behind the special effects in the Star Wars movies, has been using a prototype of NetApp's Data Ontap GX operating system on its storage arrays for more than two years. ILM executives say the system has made it possible to apply up to 6 petabytes of capacity to a single computational problem.

With the Data Ontap GX software, animators don't need to keep track of which shots are on what servers and whether a server is filling up, according to Michael Thompson, senior systems engineer at San Francisco-based ILM.

"Without this system, we would have had 10 30TB [volumes]. It lets end users look at storage like a utility, like electricity or water," Thompson said.

With the system, ILM was able to make the opening battle shots of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith up to 2,500 frames long, or more than 100 seconds, Thompson said. Previously, animators were limited to about 30 seconds, he said.

ILM has an image editing system made up of 3,000 64-bit AMD Opteron processors running SUSE Linux, along with about 100 NetApp FAS270C storage arrays and 20 Spinnaker Spin Servers combined into a single 200TB virtual disk, Thompson said.

In addition to aggregating storage across multiple servers and arrays, ILM is able to produce longer, more complicated shots. "When you do a single shot, most of the resources for that shot tend to be on one storage system. Without this storage system, it would have had to be broken up into smaller pieces, without as many individual effects," Thompson said. "This spreads the load out across multiple storage systems, and we're able to make things substantially more complicated and fancy."

The 2,500-frame single shots used in Star Wars III have already been superseded by 4,000-frame shots used in the recently released movie Poseidon, Thompson said. "All these superlong shots would have just destroyed our old file servers, back in the day. But by spreading it out, we can keep tacking on servers and keep amping up the horsepower," he said.

ILM had originally bought the Spinnaker operating system directly from Spinnaker, just a few days before the vendor was purchased by Network Appliance, Thompson said.

Pricing for Data Ontap GX starts at $212,000 retail for a configuration of 2 FAS3050 nodes with 7TB of storage capacity.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon