MSI Upgrades Storage Solutions

Computer Science

One petabyte of tape storage for under $10,000?

Leveraging new advances in tape media, the Minnesota Supercomputing Institute has expanded its storage portfolio to offer easy access to deep archival storage at low cost.

MSI currently offers a high-performance storage solution from Panasas (3.2 PB of storage) and a second tier of storage (3.2 PB) available via an S3 interface with lower performing hardware. The demand for storage is rapidly increasing and we are constantly looking for low-cost alternatives for long and medium term storage.

A new generation of Linear Tape-Open (LTO) technology has a compressed capacity per tape drive of up to 15 TB. With just over sixty tapes, MSI can store one petabyte of data for under $10,000. Tape consumes no power and generates no heat. It also lasts for a long time, for up to 30 years.

Our high-performance and second-tier storage solutions consume power, lots of it: each spinning disk drive consumes about 5 watts of power. In a 3 PB storage solution with modern high-capacity disk drives, the five-year electrical and cooling cost would be $200K. Also, the hardware for our other storage solutions must be replaced every five years due to expected disk failure rates.

Limited access to tape that required trained IT staff to retrieve data from storage has traditionally been a major drawback. In the fall of 2015, MSI purchased a tape storage gateway that promises to provide users easy access to deep archival storage. MSI is currently working on utilities to make this access easy for its users.   

Below: MSI staff members Gagana Karunanayake (left) and Naomi Hospodarsky (right) carry a total of 1.05 PB of tape storage capacity.