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Panasas embraces software-defined storage, rebrands as Vdura

Panasas is now Vdura, a software-defined storage company that aims to make its cluster parallel file system work on a swath of storage media on premises and in the cloud.

Long-running parallel file system vendor Panasas is getting a new name and embarking on a new approach to delivering storage as it no longer relies on proprietary appliances and goes software defined.

After 25 years as an HPC and parallel file company, Panasas has rebranded as Vdura, a portmanteau of velocity and durability. As part of its rebranding, the company will separate its software from proprietary hardware such as its ActiveStor arrays and identify only as a software-defined storage provider that runs on different types of storage media, mainly various SSDs and HDDs, with cloud as a future direction. Vdura will be sold as a subscription-based model.

CEO Ken Claffey, who joined Panasas last August, said the company has outgrown both its name and its focus as a storage provider, and the changes reflect that evolution.

"We're no longer an appliance company," he said. "And we're no longer just a parallel file system, where we have a vision to build out a full data platform."

Vdura will continue to offer PanFS, a clustered file system, but the vendor plans to build out a broader data platform aimed at supporting AI workloads, according to Claffey.

Changing the name of an established HPC player can be a double-edged sword, according to Mark Nossokoff, an analyst at Hyperion Research. Panasas had an established reputation for delivering parallel file systems on appliances, but that is not what the market wants right now and the changes may provide new opportunities.

"They recognize their strengths and recognize where the market is going," Nossokoff said.

Mike Matchett, an analyst at Small Data Big World, also noted the tradeoff of giving up a potential competitive differentiator in its hardware products, but one that could ultimately pay off.

"[Vdura has] a good chance to find a much bigger storage footprint, especially with enterprise adoption of more complex and hybrid data workflows for things like GenAI and converging enterprise applications," he said.

The change in focus will also mean new competition. As a supporter of HPC environments, Panasas competed with legacy vendors such as DDN and NetApp. As a software-defined storage provider, Vdura will compete against younger players such as Vast Data, Weka and Hammerspace.

While Panasas has been around since 1999, old and new competition have cut into the HPC space, according to Matchett.

"Panasas needs to reinvent itself to stay competitive, and it looks like they've chosen to get off hardware and go cloud," Matchett said. Indeed, Claffey said a major public cloud partnership is coming later this year.

Software-defined for AI

Claffey argued that software-defined storage will become increasingly important for AI and HPC workloads. Previously, customers were stuck within whatever hardware fit the parallel file approach, he said. With the shift to focus solely on a software-defined approach, PanFS will become hardware-agnostic.

Vdura is in a broad hardware ecosystem allowing for a mix and match, to hit workloads of AI and HPC in a different myriad of applications.
Ken ClaffeyCEO, Vdura

"Vdura is in a broad hardware ecosystem allowing for a mix and match, to hit workloads of AI and HPC in a different myriad of applications," Claffey said.

Few vendors can support the use of multiple accelerators, so if a workload needs to run on Nvidia GPUs, for example, or AMD, software-defined storage can support both.

While there can be advantages to using a software-defined layer in HPC and AI, it isn't a necessity, Nossokoff said.

"It allows system designers choice on what hardware platform to leverage from," he said. But, he added, choice comes with performance and storage requirements that will also need to be optimized.

Avnet and hardware needs

Last month before rebranding, the company signed a worldwide manufacturing and fulfillment partnership with Avnet Inc., a global manufacturer and distributor of technology and services. Like Vast Data, Vdura will be an Avnet Direct Connect partner, pairing Vdura software with Avnet hardware.

Customers have more choice in underlying hardware, AI accelerators and storage media, but they will need certain hardware to meet service-level agreements (SLAs), according to Claffey.

"Can you bring any hardware, and we'll make it work? Technically, yes," he said. "Can we do that and meet a defined SLA? No."

The ability to utilize HDDs also sets Vdura apart from a competitor such as Vast, Nossokoff said. While deduplication and compression provide a cost-effective usage of flash, not all workloads are the same.

"In certain applications and workloads, there is still definitely a cost advantage, on a dollar-per-gigabyte basis, for HDDs versus flash," Nossokoff said.

Adam Armstrong is a TechTarget Editorial news writer covering file and block storage hardware, and private clouds. He previously worked at

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