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IBM Builds Monster 120-Petabyte Data "Drive"

By - Source: Technology Review | B 46 comments
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This massive storage is for a supercomputer used by an unnamed client, and includes 200,000 physical drives.

The data storage group at IBM's Almaden, California, research lab is currently building a 120 petabyte drive comprised of 200,000 conventional hard disk drives working together. The team is throwing this storage monster together for an unnamed client that needs a new supercomputer for detailed simulations of real-world phenomena (like weather, climate changes etc).

Despite the insane capacity, the technologies that were developed to handle the monstrous repository could enable similar systems for more conventional commercial computing, claims Bruce Hillsberg, director of storage research at IBM and leader of the project. "This 120 petabyte system is on the lunatic fringe now, but in a few years it may be that all cloud computing systems are like it."

The technology behind the 120 petabyte "drive" includes modified horizontal drawers stacked inside typical data center racks which are significantly wider so that more disks can be crammed into nearly the same amount of physical space. The IBM engineers also ditched the standard fan setup as a cooling system, and went with a more reliable liquid cooling design to keep the drives chilled and to reduce the overall energy consumption

In addition to modifying the rack system, IBM also developed a file system known as GPFS to enable supercomputers faster data access. This new file system spreads individual files throughout multiple disks so that numerous parts of a file can be read or written simultaneously. GPFS also enables a large system to keep track of its many files without "laboriously" scanning through every one. Ultimately this system on a whole is not expected to lose any data for a million years without making any compromises on performance.

Hillsberg added that keeping track of the names, types, and other attributes of the files stored in the system will consume around two petabytes of its capacity. To put this number in perspective, 120 petabytes equals to 120 million gigabytes which theoretically could hold 24 billion 5MB MP3 files or 60 copies of the Internet Archive's WayBack Machine.

To read more about IBM's 120 petabyte drive, head here.

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Top Comments
  • 22 Hide
    NapoleonDK , August 30, 2011 12:10 AM
    It's for porn, obviously. =\ The new ".xxx" domain now has a home.

    Also, inb4 "can I install Crysis?" XD
  • 17 Hide
    jsanthara , August 30, 2011 1:18 AM
    Do you think it will cost more than $150, because I have a little over $300 and I want to buy 2.
  • 16 Hide
    bavman , August 30, 2011 12:23 AM
    "unnamed client" = someone with too much porn and not enough harddrive estate
Other Comments
  • 10 Hide
    burnley14 , August 30, 2011 12:06 AM
    They built this for me. I have a pretty big music library. . .
  • 22 Hide
    NapoleonDK , August 30, 2011 12:10 AM
    It's for porn, obviously. =\ The new ".xxx" domain now has a home.

    Also, inb4 "can I install Crysis?" XD
  • -3 Hide
    daygall , August 30, 2011 12:17 AM
    thats alot of pron O_O

    on a more serious note *cough*

    cant wait for more miniaturization :D  3tb now hopefully 6-8 in by 2015... baring the Apocalypse lol
  • 16 Hide
    bavman , August 30, 2011 12:23 AM
    "unnamed client" = someone with too much porn and not enough harddrive estate
  • -6 Hide
    techseven , August 30, 2011 12:42 AM
    Advanced tagging, mapping and storage of porn?

    120 Petabytes = 120.000 Terabytes / 2TB per drive would equal 60.000 2TB drives, but they store it on 200.000 drives?

    120.000 Terabytes / 200.000 drives = 600MB per drive. So they must need all these drives to make it fast enough...?
  • -3 Hide
    zanny , August 30, 2011 12:43 AM
    daygallthats alot of pron O_Oon a more serious note *cough*cant wait for more miniaturization 3tb now hopefully 6-8 in by 2015... baring the Apocalypse lol


    We have been pushing the limits of mechanical disk reading lasers. Blue spectrum is the smallest imprint we are going to get, and the data error limits on drives past 3 terabytes are really small, in that it is very likely to have a bad sector somewhere on the disk by that point.
  • 4 Hide
    oparadoxical_ , August 30, 2011 12:59 AM
    techseven120 Petabytes = 120.000 Terabytes / 2TB per drive would equal 60.000 2TB drives, but they store it on 200.000 drives?120.000 Terabytes / 200.000 drives = 600MB per drive. So they must need all these drives to make it fast enough...?

    Actually, 120 petabytes=122,880Tb which equals 61,440 individual 2Tb HDDs.
    Then, the 122,880tb=125,829,120Gb and if you divide that by 200,000, you get about 630gb per HDD.
  • 0 Hide
    PennyLife , August 30, 2011 1:04 AM
    I can only imagine two different types of entities that would want to purchase this:

    - A military agency, OR

    - A company that is preparing for and aiming to be a big provider of cloud services.
  • 9 Hide
    Pyree , August 30, 2011 1:17 AM
    In raid 0 (good luck finding the 1 drive which fails)!



    Only joking, of course they won't be in raid 0.
  • 17 Hide
    jsanthara , August 30, 2011 1:18 AM
    Do you think it will cost more than $150, because I have a little over $300 and I want to buy 2.
  • 6 Hide
    dalethepcman , August 30, 2011 1:25 AM
    This is probably to backup facebook, so the advertisers can find historical data a million years from now, and match your great great great.....(x100) great grand sons face to yours for their next gen ancestry.com ad's
  • -1 Hide
    zoemayne , August 30, 2011 1:47 AM
    facebook data isn't that large...... not the text info
  • -3 Hide
    Azimuth01 , August 30, 2011 2:06 AM
    Google must be about to hatch their master plan....
    First: consolidate all the information they ever collected onto one machine
    Next: Begin analyzing trends using variables and timetables from every known source
    Lastly: Use this information to predict the future and take over the world
  • -9 Hide
    Azimuth01 , August 30, 2011 2:06 AM
    Google must be about to hatch their master plan....
    First: consolidate all the information they ever collected onto one machine
    Next: Begin analyzing trends using variables and timetables from every known source
    Lastly: Use this information to predict the future and take over the world
  • -1 Hide
    a sandwhich , August 30, 2011 2:07 AM
    jsantharaDo you think it will cost more than $150, because I have a little over $300 and I want to buy 2.

    lol wut?
  • 2 Hide
    balister , August 30, 2011 2:07 AM
    techsevenAdvanced tagging, mapping and storage of porn?120 Petabytes = 120.000 Terabytes / 2TB per drive would equal 60.000 2TB drives, but they store it on 200.000 drives?120.000 Terabytes / 200.000 drives = 600MB per drive. So they must need all these drives to make it fast enough...?


    You're forgetting the overhead for running as a RAID 10. So likely 1.5 TB with double the drives for the mirroring.

    So, 90k for one RAID 0 and then another 90k for the other side of the mirror of the RAID 0.
  • 3 Hide
    FloKid , August 30, 2011 2:07 AM
    Oh boy I hope they have a pretty good Anti Virus
  • -8 Hide
    Azimuth01 , August 30, 2011 2:08 AM
    Google must be about to hatch their master plan....
    First: consolidate all the information they ever collected onto one machine
    Next: Begin analyzing trends using variables and timetables from every known source
    Lastly: Use this information to predict the future and take over the world
  • -6 Hide
    Azimuth01 , August 30, 2011 2:09 AM
    multiple posts....
    I can't remove them, why?
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