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Enterprise storage is a market dominated by big companies. But Panasas has found a niche providing parallel storage systems for the biggest supercomputers. The company has raised $25 million in a fifth round of funding, VentureBeat has learned.

The Fremont, Calif.-based company declined to comment on the funding. The round was led by Focus Ventures of Palo Alto, Calif. Other investors included Mohr Davidow Ventures, Carlyle Venture Partners, Centennial Ventures, and Northgate Capital Partners.

The company’s web site says it focuses on the parallel storage market in competition with NetApp, EMC, Sun Microsystems and IBM. It can do so because it has a unique architecture to deliver the best storage performance in high-bandwidth applications such as simulations, modeling, oil and gas exploration, and product design.

Most clusters of Linux servers use an architecture dubbed a “network file system,” or NFS. But such systems with a “serial” architecture bog down when a lot of users are trying to access the same file at the same time. Panasas has a parallel file system that can accommodate all of those users in parallel. It builds a kind of “unified memory” storage system that resembles the kind of unified memory of SGI supercomputers. In fact, SGI is a major reseller of Panasas’ storage systems, as is Dell.

The architecture is the brainchild of Garth Gibson, who was one of the inventors of the popular RAID storage systems that are popular today because they can store data reliably across a bunch of disk drives. Currently chief technology officer, Gibson started Panasas in 1999. The first products shipped in 2003 and the company is now on its third generation of ActiveStor products that can store up to 200 terabytes of data per rack or up to 100 petabytes in a single file system. (Our description: That’s a lot of data).

Among start-ups, the competition included Cluster File Systems, but Sun Microsystems acquired that company in October. Panasas’ storage system was part of Roadrunner, the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s supercomputer with a petaflop of computing performance. The supercomputer, announced a few weeks ago, will have 12,900 microprocessors, including the Cell chips that serve as the brains of Sony PlayStation 3 video game consoles.

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