IBM General Parallel File System - History

History

GPFS began as the Tiger Shark file system, a research project at IBM's Almaden Research Center as early as 1993. Shark was initially designed to support high throughput multimedia applications. This design turned out to be well suited to scientific computing.

Another ancestor of GPFS is IBM's Vesta filesystem, developed as a research project at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center between 1992-1995. Vesta introduced the concept of file partitioning to accommodate the needs of parallel applications that run on high-performance multicomputers with parallel I/O subsystems. With partitioning, a file is not a sequence of bytes, but rather multiple disjoint sequences that may be accessed in parallel. The partitioning is such that it abstracts away the number and type of I/O nodes hosting the filesystem, and it allows a variety of logical partitioned views of files, regardless of the physical distribution of data within the I/O nodes. The disjoint sequences are arranged to correspond to individual processes of a parallel application, allowing for improved scalability.

Vesta was commercialized as the PIOFS filesystem around 1994, and was succeeded by GPFS around 1998. The main difference between the older and newer filesystems was that GPFS replaced the specialized interface offered by Vesta/PIOFS with the standard Unix API: all the features to support high performance parallel I/O were hidden from users and implemented under the hood. Today, GPFS is used by many of the top 500 supercomputers listed on the Top 500 Supercomputing Sites web site. Since inception GPFS has been successfully deployed for many commercial applications including: digital media, grid analytics and scalable file service.

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