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UC San Diego: Denine Hagen, (858) 534-2920,
3ware: Shari Schoenfeld, (650) 614-0822,


In a demonstration that could change the way researchers exchange information, computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) Jacobs School of Engineering used a network server built out of a supercluster of standard PCs to deliver data at a rate of 439 megabytes-per-second. Server performance was enhanced by a collection of 16 IDE disk controllers developed by 3ware.

Today's big science projects like the Human Genome Project and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey involve huge data sets of a terabyte or more. Researchers who want to share data have found it nearly impossible to store and transfer that much information. Multi-terabyte data storage archives are typically extremely expensive, and sustain much lower transfer rates.

Andrew Chien, professor of computer science and engineering at UC San Diego, has created a 3.5 terabytes network file server from inexpensive commodity components. Standard IDE Disks are loaded into PCs. The 3ware controller delivers outstanding performance by transferring simultaneously from all of the disks in each node. The computing resources of each of the PCs are combined using the HPVM software developed by Chien in earlier research.

"This demonstration network server uses the types of computers found in most research laboratories linked together with some inexpensive software components. So I think it is something many researchers could scale up to transfer or receive data," said Chien. "The system is dramatically cheaper than single-machine supercomputer file servers, and is dramatically faster than anything available today. It may be especially important as the Next Generation Internet enables more broadband communications."

Key to the success of Chien's server is 3ware's new 3W-1400 storage controller. Optimized for input/output performance, the 3W-1400 controller uses packet-switching technology and a standard PCI interface to support four dedicated ultraATA or IDE channels that can be integrated into any workstation. 3ware's line of storage controllers, based on the company's DiskSwitch architecture, allows storage systems to use low-cost disk drives to achieve the high performance levels typically associated with more expensive SCSI drives. The 3W-1400 storage controller is configured as a striped 'RAID 0' set, but appears to the running application as a single high-capacity, high-performance drive. This technology allows data transfers to be performed under hardware control, freeing the main processor to run the application code without interference.

"The UC San Diego demonstration shows that 3ware's DiskSwitch architecture enables standard ATA or IDE drives to deliver high transfer rates never before possible in this class of machine," said Dr. Robert Horst, director of research at 3ware. "This high performance, coupled with the low cost of the drives and controller, will make 3ware storage controllers the optimal choice for a wide variety of high-end scientific and engineering applications."

Chien's demonstration took place through a system-area network built with Myricom's Myrinet family of cost-effective, high-performance, packet-communication and switching technology.

Chien plans to build on this demonstration to create a multi-terabyte network disk server capable of transferring data at a rate of a gigabyte per second. He'll be working with a number of industry and academic collaborators on the project.

This research was conducted with Chien's Concurrent Systems Architecture Group, which is focused on hardware and software architecture issues in parallel and distributed computer systems. Projects in the Concurrent Systems Architecture Group are supported in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Administration, National Science Foundation, Intel Corporation, Hewlett-Packard Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, Myricom, Packet Engines, Platform Computing, and Tandem Computer. Some technology transfer and deployment efforts are supported through the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure.

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