I recently read a blog at Storage Switzerland that got me a little aggravated. Even more aggravating is the fact that my recent switchover from BlackBerry to a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 “phablet” left behind my link to the irritating piece. I have been all over George’s site, he is the proprietor of Storage Switzerland, and can’t find the blog. I only know that it had something to do with tape and backup and possibly clouds and made some assertions I couldn’t abide. Oh well, we shall blog war another time, Mr. Crump. But I still want to offer some thoughts here about tape.
I noted a couple of posts back that Wayne Tolliver’s ShockSense was pretty cool tape technology — for those who didn’t watch the video, Wayne has patented a little sensor that adds on to the bar code label on a tape cartridge and provides a visual indicator when a tape has been dropped or otherwise shocked. That is cool because, if implemented, it could eliminate the one remaining rational complaint about tape today: the propensity of users to employ tapes that have been damaged due to improper handling, especially when the user is unaware that the mishandling has occurred. IMHO, Tolliver is on to something with relevance not only to tape but to any kind of shock-sensitive merchandise — a simple indication of a potential issue so that remediation can be taken.
I was talking to Rich Gadomski at Fujifilm the other day and we agreed that tape made a lot of inroads into the marketplace last year. Rich is always a wealth of information, and he didn’t disappoint this time. He alerted me to a document that dropped in December, while I was down with the flu, from the Tape Storage Council. It summarized the two trends that were fueling tape technology’s current renaissance and future prospects. I found it an interesting read and wanted you to have the chance to see it here. The proper approach would be to just link to the Tape Storage Council website and have you go there to download the document. HERE IS THAT LINK. (Note that this page would not open for me just now when I went there. The site may be down for maintenance.)
The other option is to make it easy for you to download and read from my blog. I hope this is okay with the Tape Storage Council, as I did not ask their permission.
I have nits to pick with a reference or two in the document, but it provides a pretty complete summary of tape capabilities and economics that provide the technology with a long runway going forward in smart IT shops. (I wish they would lose the references to the widely discredited Digital Universe study by IDC. Truth be told, the growth of new digital data doesn’t drive squat. It is the failure to manage that data, or to adopt infrastructure that replicates that data an obscene number of times, that drives storage capacity demand.)
But I digress. The document summarizes some announcements deemed to be milestones by the Council members. These included:
- On Sept. 16, 2013 Oracle Corp announced the StorageTek T10000D enterprise tape drive. Features of the T10000D include an 8.5 TB native capacity and data rate of 252 MB/s native. The T10000D is backward read compatible with all three previous generations of T10000 tape drives.
- On Jan. 16, 2014 Fujifilm Recording Media USA, Inc. reported it has manufactured over 100 million LTO Ultrium data cartridges since its release of the first generation of LTO in 2000. This equates to over 53 thousand petabytes (53 exabytes) of storage and more than 41 million miles of tape, enough to wrap around the globe 1,653 times.
- April 30, 2014, Sony Corporation independently developed a soft magnetic under layer with a smooth interface using sputter deposition, created a nano-grained magnetic layer with fine magnetic particles and uniform crystalline orientation. This layer enabled Sony to successfully demonstrate the world’s highest areal recording density for tape storage media of 148 GB/in2. This areal density would make it possible to record more than 185 TB of data per data cartridge.
- On May 19, 2014 Fujifilm in conjunction with IBM successfully demonstrated a record areal data density of 85.9 Gb/in2 on linear magnetic particulate tape using Fujifilm’s proprietary NANOCUBIC™ and Barium Ferrite (BaFe) particle technologies. This breakthrough in recording density equates to a standard LTO cartridge capable of storing up to 154 terabytes of uncompressed data, making it 62 times greater than today’s current LTO-6 cartridge capacity and projects a long and promising future for tape growth.
- On Sept. 9, 2014 IBM announced LTFS LE version 2.1.4 4 extending LTFS (Linear Tape File System) tape library support.
- On Sept. 10, 2014 the LTO Program Technology Provider Companies (TPCs), HP, IBM and Quantum, announced an extended roadmap which now includes LTO generations 9 and 10. The new generation guidelines call for compressed capacities of 62.5 TB for LTO-9 and 120 TB for generation LTO-10 and include compressed transfer rates of up to 1,770 MB/second for LTO-9 and a 2,750 MB/second for LTO-10. Each new generation will include read-and-write backwards compatibility with the prior generation as well as read compatibility with cartridges from two generations prior to protect investments and ease tape conversion and implementation.
- On Oct. 6, 2014 IBM announced the TS1150 enterprise drive. Features of the TS1150 include a native data rate of up to 360 MB/sec versus the 250 MB/sec native data rate of the predecessor TS1140 and a native cartridge capacity of 10 TB compared to 4 TB on the TS1140. LTFS support was included.
- On Nov. 6, 2014, HP announced a new release of StoreOpen Automation that delivers a solution for using LTFS in automation environments with Windows OS, available as a free download. This version complements their already existing support for Mac and Linux versions to help simplify integration of tape libraries to archiving solutions.
Reading this list, I found myself recalling the scene from Ghostbusters (which was also re-released in theatres on Labor Day Weekend in 2014) after the team uses their proton packs and believes that they have destroyed Gozer:
Dr Ray Stantz: We’ve neutronized it, you know what that means? A complete particle reversal.
Winston Zeddemore: We have the tools, and we have the talent.
Dr. Peter Venkman: It’s Miller time!
So much for that little insight on my misspent youth. Bottom line: tape is looking pretty good these days, which is why it kind of irritates me when (1) tape is conflated with backup and (2) when the statement is made that tape is giving way to clouds. Here’s the rub.
Tape and backup are two different things. Just because backups have often been made to tape media doesn’t mean that the problems of backup have much to do with tape technology. Backup was always a flawed enterprise: backup software vendors were trying to automate the solution to data protection (data loss or corruption owing to any number of causes) and ran into just about every hurdle ever imagined. Servers were too busy to run a data replication process, or to serve data up over an I/O port. Applications, when operating, didn’t allow data to be copied at all. Lots of servers introduced a need to superstream data to the tape target, and as shorter tape jobs finished, the superstream unraveled, extending the time required to take the backup. Data could not be submitted to the tape drive at the jitter-free and persistant clip that the drive wanted. The list goes on. None of these things had anything to do with tape, but with the backup application and the way it interoperated with the production environment. Conflating the two makes me mad.
Truth is, today you don’t need backup software. Oops. I said it. With LTFS from IBM, you could just copy the entire file system directly to tape media without specialty backup containers. With object storage, you could simply write object name and metadata into one track of a tape and the corresponding data to another track — LTFS on steroids.
Anyway, hating on backup has always been leveraged by the disk (and now some of the flash kids) to hate on tape technology, much in the way that VMware blamed hosted application workload performance issues on “legacy disk” — another assertion that fails the smell test. It should stop and analysts need to stop taking money from disk guys to say that backup problems are due to the inadequacies of tape technology.
Cloud replacing tape is another bogus assertion. For one thing, the industrial farmers of the cloud world — Amazon, Microsoft and Google — all use tape in the course of operating their storage clouds. Google was reluctant to admit it for the longest time, but I heard a great presentation by one of their tape mavens at Fujifilm’s conference last September in NYC, and the guys at The Register did a great write-up on it. (HERE)
Moreover, there are now cloud storage services, including dternity, that specialize in using tape technology for cloud storage and archiving. Officially announced at the NAB show in 2014, here is a video interview shot at that event…
I am planning to head out to NAB this year and to give a talk around tape. I look forward to hooking up with the folks at Fujifilm, dternity and perhaps a few others to see what tape mongers will be bragging about this year. For now, assertions that clouds kill tape are just as stupid as the other tape is dead lines we have heard throughout the years.
Watch this space.