This is the 4th article in our Storage Innovation blog series. We’ve been discussing on-premise storage in the past two posts, and in the last post I talked about the pros and cons of “rolling your own” storage. In this post, we’ll have a discussion with Linda Zhou, Director of HPC and Life Sciences Solutions at HGST, about turnkey private cloud storage systems and the benefits of approaching storage this way.
A Conversation with HGST HPC Director Linda Zhou
[Steve Tuecke] To begin with, Linda, give us a quick summary of what we need to know about HGST.
[Linda Zhou] HGST is part of Western Digital, a leading, manufacturer of data storage devices and solutions. This makes HGST a unique player in the enterprise storage market because we are the only vendor that manufactures our own disk drives. We develop all the underlying technology which enables us to innovate at every level of the storage stack to create the fastest solid-state drives and the densest storage systems on the planet. One of our premiere solutions is ActiveScale™ object storage system, where we say data can live forever.
[Steve Tuecke] Thanks Linda. When you talk with users about data storage and sharing in the context of research computing, what do they say is their biggest challenge that a good solution needs to address?
[Linda Zhou] We talk to lots of research customers and our concept of “data living forever” resonates with them. They want to know they can retrieve their data in 5 or 10 years or even longer to support future research projects. And, they also want to know their data is protected and can be shared with their research partners.
[Steve Tuecke] Yes, we see this as well when working with Globus customers. They want their storage and data access to just work and the data to always be there. Tell me more about “data forever” – can you explain what that means in practice?
[Linda Zhou] In the past we have seen that data can outlive the storage infrastructure where it currently resides. This is particularly true with research environments. And our research customers are tired of traditional storage where forklift upgrades and data migration are required every 6-10 years. ActiveScale’s architecture helps create a Data Forever environment where the underlying storage infrastructure can improve over time without requiring a data migration and forklift upgrade. We leverage several unique technologies that facilitate Data Forever including dynamic data placement, a patented technology that adapts to new or additional storage without rebalancing, versioning to enable decisions on which data to keep forever and what to delete, and BitDynamics™ for background data integrity checks with self-healing. These technologies make the system flexible and adaptable so you can easily scale capacity, expand hardware across generations, and avoid costly forklift upgrades. And combined with the cost advantages HGST is able to offer, Data Forever becomes a very compelling value proposition.
[Steve Tuecke] Let’s explore cost a little more. When we think about turnkey storage, typically the notion is that a turnkey solution will be costly. However, of course building your own solution requires expertise and time which can be costly to acquire if you don’t already have it to devote to a project. Can you provide some comparisons for your own solution vs other approaches, taking into consideration factors like hardware, software and services costs (i.e. paying someone to make it all work)?
[Linda Zhou] Sure. First off, as I mentioned earlier, being part of Western Digital and having access to all the underlying technology enables us to innovate at every level, optimize for our ActiveScale systems and drive out unneeded costs. For example, we get the disk drives, which is the bulk of the system’s price, at cost. In many scenarios, this allows us to provide the hardware and the software at the same price as it would cost you just to get the hardware. We also manage and support our software and hardware as a combined solution and intentionally do not charge a big premium for software. Our vertical integrations with partners like Globus also enable us to offer a complete solution with greater overall value than a typical DIY approach. In some cases our solution has a lower TCO than tape. Of course, different scenarios vary and we can’t speak to every situation or quote a user is going to get from a vendor. But we’ve priced our solutions with these kinds of situations in mind, so buyers really can’t afford to ignore the advantages and wil be hard-pressed to find a better deal.
[Steve Tuecke] Great, thanks Linda – this should give campus research computing leaders something to think about. In closing, what advice can you leave readers who are weighing the pros and cons of a turnkey storage solution – what should they be looking for, and avoiding?
[Linda Zhou] You could build your own storage solution by piecing together inexpensive components and, on paper, save some money to begin with. But in the long run you will end up spending a lot of time making it work, troubleshooting issues and worrying if it will all come apart at the seams in the future. Before you take that risk, you should ask yourself how important your data is to you. If your data is important to the success of your research and you plan to keep your data for a long time, I would strongly suggest that you choose a proven storage solution that will be there when you need it. ActiveScale is a storage solution you can count on to help keep your data safe and available forever if needed and will actually be less expensive in the long run.
Thanks Linda for your insights on turnkey storage. In our next post, we’ll close out the on-prem portion of the series with a look at tape storage. We’ll then transition to cloud-based storage topics.
Thanks for reading!