insideHPC: What is new with Spectra?
Matt Star: Recently, we released our BlackPearl appliance, which is an S3 gateway to tape. It’s a really easy way to get data into a deep storage archive. Kind of interesting to take this cloud-based technology, put it into appliance and actually build a private cloud for HPC.
insideHPC: I was with you guys when you did the roll-out of deep storage. What has this new thing brought to the table?
Matt Star: If you look at the amount of software and the complexity it takes to write to tape and write to the archive, using restful protocols makes it trivial. So you’re using HTTP-based protocols and syntaxes to put data to tape. And when you think of putting data to tape, not everybody here in the building knows how to write to tape, this makes it that easy.
insideHPC: So when I do that and I write to tape, it– did my object of storage to become a URL somewhere?
Matt Star: Yeah, that’s a way you could think of it. It is accessible through a URL – a PUT or a GET. So when you think about like Facebook or other things where you download or get a picture or upload a picture? That’s a PUT and a GET operation. Those are HTTP calls, and we’re just using those calls to move big chunks of data.
insideHPC: I want to ask you something about an industry thing, because a very well known friend of mine, Henry Newman, is saying tape is dead. What would you say back to Henry?
Matt Star: When Henry was born [chuckles], they were saying the same thing [chuckles].
insideHPC: He’s older than me.
Matt Star: Yeah, so we’ve been saying tape is dead, for a very long time. And the thing that makes– there will always be – be it tape or be it some other media – there will always be an inexpensive piece of media for the archive. Right now that’s tape, and for the foreseeable future it’s tape. Could something come along and displace it? Yes, but there has to be something. You can’t take away tape and say, “Okay, the world still survives.” Disk is just too expensive on power right now. I heard a fact that 2.5% of the US power is consumed by the data center.
insideHPC: That’s spinning rust?
Matt Star: Exactly.
insideHPC: All right. So tape lives until something viable that’s better, like some kind of writable Blu-Ray or some laser stuff whatever?
Matt Star: Yeah, holographic or some really crazy new technology.
insideHPC: But there is nothing at the moment, and so tape lives on?
Matt Star: Yes. And if you look at tape, the thing that– where tape gets a bad name, is the disk guys have a marketing machine. When you look at the reliability of a single tape cartridge compared to a disk, it’s sometimes between a thousand and a million times more reliable in the bit error crashing. So the reason you need RAID on disk is to protect from bitters and broken drives. Tape, at 10 to the 20th bit errors, you don’t need that.
insideHPC: So you don’t need to do the RAID and all that other complexity and everything else. All right. So tape lives on, what are the fortunes for Spectra that?
Matt Star: Well, in the HPC market, a lot of growth. What we’re seeing, is people are now going from a few petabyte archive to 50 petabyte to 100 petabyte. We’ve had customers come in and ask us for 100 petabyte plus archives. And the growth curves are– we always look at these growth curves and everybody says it’s 40% year over year. In HPC, it can be a lot more than that. It’s because it’s a factor of the super computer, right? The number of flops on the super computer directly relate to RAM, directly relate to disk, directly relate to tape. And tape being the long tail for data, that’s the one that grows the most.
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