Oracle reaffirmed its commitment to its tape storage business today with a round of enhancements to its StorageTek tape libraries and drives, including the addition of support for the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) generation 5 tape format and the ability to scale its enterprise class StorageTek SL8500 Modular Library System to 150PB.
The new features of the Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) StorageTek SL8500 Modular Library System include an increase in scalable capacity from 70,000 to 100,000 tape slots, redundant electronics and support for LTO-5 tape drives.
Support for the LTO-5 format brings to the SL8500’s total capacity to 150PB, which can be achieved by linking 10 SL8500 libraries and managing them as a single system, according to Tom Wultich, director of Oracle’s Corporate Tape Product Management Group.
Oracle has added LTO-5 tape drive support to all of its StorageTek libraries. The StorageTek line is supported by Oracle Solaris, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Oracle VM, Oracle Exadata V2, Oracle Database 11g, Oracle Fusion Middleware 11g, Oracle Applications, and Oracle’s Sun Servers, as well as by third-party mainframe and open systems products.
Oracle faced some tough questions and skepticism leading up to its recent Large Tape Users Group (LTUG) event (see “Oracle Says It’s Committed to Tape Storage”)., but convinced many of its biggest customers that it will continue to advance its StorageTek tape portfolio.
Wultich said many LTUG members have hit capacity limits and want bigger, faster tape systems.
“The LTUG asked us to grow the unit side-by-side as well as up. We are connecting the SL8500 libraries side-by-side to reach 150PB,” he said.
He added that the on-the-fly upgrade features of the libraries were well received by StorageTek users.
“You can add more tape drives and capacity to the SL8500 on-the-fly and can go from LTO-4 to LTO-5 without scheduling an outage. We also have the only robotics that can be replaced while the system is running,” he said.
LTO-5 and LTFS
The LTO-5 drives recently became available with specifications and new feature details calling for a storage capacity increase to 3TB (assuming 2:1 compression) – a near doubling of capacity over the previous generation – and transfer rates of up to 280MBps second (assuming 2:1 compression) .
The biggest enhancement to the LTO format may not be the performance and capacity boosts. Generation 5 includes a new partitioning functionality and Linear Tape File System (LTFS) specification enabling better file controls and space management.
The LTFS is a self describing tape file system aimed at making tape as easy to use as external hard drives. Available now for Linux and Mac OSes (Windows support forthcoming), LTFS is open source code and is available for download at no charge.
The LTO Consortium is betting that LTO-5 media with LTFS will expand tape’s reach to new applications.
“The Long Term File System opens up a new market [for LTO]. The new partitioning capability of LTO-5 with LTFS makes the usability of tape just like any other device and allows the drive to write to two partitions on the tape. It opens up capabilities like faster data access, improved file management and, we think, new market segments like rich media,” said IBM senior program manager Bruce Master.
The LTO-5 drives have been designed with backwards-compatible read-and-write capability with the LTO-4 cartridges, and backward read capabilities with LTO-3 cartridges.
Earlier this year, the LTO Program companies announced an extension of the format through generation 8, calling for native capacities for generations 7 and 8 of 6.4TB and 12.8TB, respectively. Additionally, specifications include a larger compression history buffer which tests show can increase compression to 2.5:1, allowing for potential compressed cartridge capacities of 8TB for generation 6, 16TB for generation 7 and 32TB for generation 8.
Tape drive data transfer rates are anticipated to increase by 50 percent with each new
generation, with plans for generation 6 to provide native transfer rates up to 210MBps,
generation 7 up to 315MBps and generation 8 up to 47MBps.
Wayward Tape Users Returning?
According to a recent survey released by the LTO triumvirate of HP, IBM and Quantum, a hierarchical strategy for interim storage continues to be favored by most managers as more than 60 percent indicated a hybrid storage blend of disk and tape to address performance, data protection, long-term retention, and cost control. Of that 60 percent, nearly half indicated continued usage of tape in the future as a significant part of their environments.
The survey also revealed that tape is on the rise as a long-term storage tier (see “LTO-5 Breathes New Life into Tape Storage”). Managers in tape-only environments are increasingly planning to use more tape as 37 percent indicated more use of tape in the future, an upward trend from 2006 when 24 percent cited the same expectation.
The survey, conducted by Fleishman-Hillard Research in the fourth quarter of 2009, polled more than 200 network administrators and mid-level technology specialists at mid- to large-sized companies throughout the United States.
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