Tape storage isn’t what you’d call cutting-edge technology. Most of us make do with disk, and lust after the speeds of SSD. But tape is still useful when massive amounts of storage are needed, in part because of its low cost. It’s being put to good use at an extreme scale in a new supercomputer.
According to Computerworld, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) is building a storage infrastructure consisting of 380 petabytes of magnetic tape capacity and 25 petabytes of disk storage. It’s all to support the petaflop-scale Blue Waters supercomputer. The NCSA says it is building the system to “predict the behavior of complex biological systems, understand how the cosmos evolved after the Big Bang, design new materials at the atomic level, predict the behavior of hurricanes and tornadoes, and simulate complex engineered systems like the power distribution system and airplanes and automobiles.”
The 25PB of disk will act as online storage for data that must be rapidly accessed, while the tape library is categorized as nearline, sort of a compromise between online storage and backup systems. With 380,000 AMD Opteron 6200 Series x82 processors, the cluster will use 40Gbps Ethernet technology with aggregate throughput of up to a terabyte per second, Computerworld reported.