Have you ever called vendor A about a problem in your environment, only to be told that it’s not their problem and you need to contact vendor B? Then you call vendor B who directs you to vendor C, who suggests calling vendor A? Having been on countless calls with NetApp customers, nothing frustrates me more than a gaggle of IT vendors failing to step up and work together to help our shared customer, regardless of who is at fault.

 

Even though in my experience NetApp engineers consistently step up to the plate and try to help, it can be challenging when we aren’t the experts for another vendor’s product. But then we thought, what if we were?

 

In our quest to build a solution support offering around NetApp® E-Series storage systems, we started by examining how customers consume our storage. With industry-leading performance and capacity options, our focus landed on high-performance computing (HPC). HPC environments often leverage a parallel cluster file system to maximize performance and scalability of the shared storage namespace presented to compute nodes. We began our search for a solution that would allow our customers to get the most out of their data while holding to our E-Series standards around cost-effective performance, flexibility, and ease of use.

 

Overcoming pricing models associated with traditional parallel cluster file systems was our first challenge. We felt that offerings requiring per-client licensing that forced our customers to trade off desired compute capacity with cost were restrictive. The same goes for capacity-based licensing. We also wanted a solution that was easy to setup, manage, and extend as requirements evolved. Perhaps most importantly, we wanted a product backed by a responsive and knowledgeable development team who would work with us to do right by our customers. It didn’t take long to turn our attention toward BeeGFS.

 

September 5th, 2019 ThinkParQ (the company behind BeeGFS) announced its global partnership with NetApp to build and support BeeGFS solutions based on NetApp® E-Series storage systems. This partnership is the culmination of long-standing collaboration between NetApp and BeeGFS engineering teams to form a deep understanding of how the technologies interrelate. The official press release announcing our partnership can be found on the BeeGFS website.

 

Originally developed in 2005 by the Fraunhofer Center for HPC, BeeGFS has the advantage of being created and maintained by a leading HPC center with a strong emphasis on performance and scalability. Today, it is used in many areas of industry and research, including artificial intelligence, defense, finance, life sciences, and oil and gas. If you haven’t already been swept up in the buzz around BeeGFS (I’ll limit myself to one bee pun per post, I promise), you’ll be interested to know that it was part of the hardware stack behind the recent picture of a black hole.

 

BeeGFS is open source, and the basic BeeGFS file system software is available free of charge for end users. I will cover the architecture of BeeGFS in a future post, but here are the basics needed to understand support pricing. At a minimum, BeeGFS deployments involve a management service and one or more instances of storage, metadata, and client services. Instead of traditional licensing, NetApp offers BeeGFS support contracts based on the number of servers and attached storage targets used to run storage and metadata services. You can run as many clients as you need to get the job done with whatever storage capacity you require. Separate support is also available for BeeOND, a feature that is typically used to create a temporary work file system for the duration of a compute job (often used as a burst buffer).

 

So what do you get with solution support for BeeGFS and E-Series from NetApp? Although the basic feature set of BeeGFS is free, support contracts provide access to enterprise features, including access control lists (ACLs), quota enforcement, and high-availability features. Support also includes early access to BeeGFS updates and hot fixes through the official BeeGFS website. Expanded customer-only documentation is available to help you get the most out of your BeeGFS deployment.

 

With a support contract, our storage experts are there for you every step of the way, from configuration and optimizing performance for your workload to helping troubleshoot and resolve any issues that may occur. Our engineers’ deep understanding of the BeeGFS file system and the underlying E-Series storage gives us the advantage in helping you. Best of all, there’s no finger pointing or turning over responsibility to someone else.

 

To learn more about the NetApp and BeeGFS solution, read the NetApp E-Series with BeeGFS solution brief. And watch for my next post, in which I’ll give a more technical introduction to BeeGFS. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about how we can build better solutions to support your evolving needs around data. Drop me a note at joe.mccormick@netapp.com or leave a comment below.

Joe McCormick

Joe McCormick is a software engineer at NetApp with over ten years of experience in the IT industry. With nearly seven years at NetApp, Joe's current focus is developing high-performance computing solutions around E-Series. Joe is also a big proponent of automation, believing if you've done it once, why are you doing it again.