November 15, 2012

DataDirect Networks to Invest $100M in Exascale, Big Data Computing


DataDirect Networks (DDN), a global icon in massively scalable storage, has established a $100-million investment in its research and development efforts. Specifically, the company will be greatly expanding its efforts to resolve a number of key challenges toward delivering “Exascale” levels of performance in scientific computing.

The challenge here is a “big data” challenge.

Imagine executing one quintillion computer operations per second – one with a lot of zeroes behind it, 18 of them to be exact. Here’s some trivia: there are 43 quintillion possible moves on a standard Rubik’s cube. Granted, that is not quite a googol (of which the familiar Google is play off), which requires 100 zeroes, but we’re talking huge numbers nonetheless. Exascale computing specifically refers to any computer system that can deliver performance that exceeds one quintillion computer operations per second.

That puts DDN into the supercomputer playground, and to be clear, supercomputers aren’t actually at this level of performance yet.

Supercomputers aren’t expected to be able to deliver it until probably 2018, but when it does it will correspond to a thousand-fold increase over today’s state-of-the-art supercomputer capabilities. There is no way to meet this level of scalability with today’s technology. In fact, DDN notes that nothing short of radical innovation will be required to ensure that tomorrow’s applications will be able to effectively scale across massive infrastructure, which will also need to be highly resilient, power efficient and affordable.

These are extraordinarily difficult technical challenges, and hence an extraordinary R&D investment.

Alex Bouzari, CEO and cofounder of DDN, noted that "Data-intensive computing impacts individuals, organizations, industries and governments by enabling the creation of valuable information based on massive volumes of highly complex data. Significant investment is required to allow researchers to address challenges such as the design of new materials needed for better electric car batteries, the improvement of multi-physics models for more accurate severe weather modeling, and the development of high-resolution cosmological simulations to help understand dark matter and the universe around us.”

“This type of computing is what drives DDN, and with today's announcement, DDN makes it clear that it intends to be a technology leader in Exascale computing,” he said.

DDN currently powers over 60 of the top 100 supercomputers in existence, and its technology is deployed in thousands of mission-critical environments worldwide. The company has continually worked to remain at the forefront of supercomputing and big data storage scaling efforts. The emergence of big data (yes, it is a new buzz word, but it is also a true computing issue) provides a huge market incentive for companies like DDN to develop next-generation (and beyond) technologies for scalable and efficient data-intensive computing.

The new investments by DDN represent a substantial percentage of DDN's engineering resources. DDN notes that the dollars will be directed toward technology challenges which become critical at Exascale proportions.

These include:

I/O Acceleration: New file system, middleware and storage tiering methods will be required to eliminate scalability barriers associated with conventional methods of file, object and database access in order to achieve 1,000x scalability, terabyte per second performance and million-way application CPU parallelism.

Converged Infrastructure: The convergence of computing, storage and networking technologies will give rise to intelligent and accelerated data storage infrastructures which can co-locate pre-processing and post-processing routines natively within the storage infrastructure to enable applications to access data with increased acuity.

Information Value Extraction: Leveraging converged infrastructures, DDN R&D efforts will support the development of scalable data analytics environments to extract actionable insights from vast volumes of unstructured data.

Energy and Data Center Efficiency: With the emergence of storage-class memory and software tools, infrastructures can be built with fewer components compared to today's disk-based technologies. These initiatives will serve to significantly reduce hardware acquisition costs, but will also make data centers much more space and power efficient by reducing storage footprint by more than 75 percent.

DDN’s customers include the leading online content and social networking providers, high-performance cloud and grid computing vendors, life sciences and media production organizations and security and intelligence organizations.

All of these companies are neck deep in big data already, and are all at the forefront of delivering applications that will ultimately require Exascale performance.






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