Tape Archiving Buyer’s Guide

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A couple of weeks ago, we issued a tape storage buying guide that included a tape archiving solution from Spectra Logic. It turns out that tape archiving is a hot topic. So today, we’re continuing that earlier buying guide with the focus solely on tape archiving. It covers products from IBM, HP and Overland.

“Archives of data are increasingly being treated like assets rather than simple long-term storage bins with the idea being to monetize and preserve the value of the data,” said Sanjay Tripathi, Director and Business Line Executive, IBM Systems & Technology Group, Storage Platform. “Tape storage has been, is and will continue to be a critical component of any smarter storage solution, especially in the era of Big Data.”

IBM Tape Archiving

The IBM TS3500 tape library is IBM’s most scalable library. It scales from about 60 cartridges and 1 tape drive (LTO or TS1140) up to 300,000 cartridges and 2,800 tape drives using the IBM Shuttle Complex of multiple TS3500 tape libraries.

The IBM Tape System Library Manager (TSLM) software centralizes the management of IBM’s TS3500 cartridges and drives. It provides resource sharing and addresses management challenges experienced by High Performance Computing (HPC) environments (such as those used for oil and gas exploration and genomic analysis) and in other settings where multiple tape libraries must be shared and managed, said Tripathi.

TSLM can combine the capacity of multiple TS3500 libraries into one reservoir of storage that can be managed from a single point. When used with the IBM TS3500 Tape Library Shuttle Complex, it can form a single library image with up to 1.9 Exabytes of IBM LTO-6 compressed tape capacity or up to 2.7 Exabytes of IBM TS1140 compressed tape capacity.

“This provides dynamic sharing of resources across heterogeneous application boundaries and security features to permit or prevent application access to tapes,” said Tripathi. “You can create a common scratch pool and private pools for every application, and set up policy-based drive and cartridge allocation, as well as policy-based media-lifecycle management.”

He added that shuttles of a cartridge can go directly from one library to any other without having to make stops in-between. This results in shuttles of five seconds between systems, which is said to be five times faster than competitive pass-through systems that must pass a cartridge from one library to another to get to a final destination. He uses an airline analogy: direct flights are the best way to optimize travel. This system is designed to apply the same approach.

“Cartridges travel overhead on an optimized path; there’s no involvement from interim accessors,” said Tripathi. “There is only picking the cartridge from a storage slot at the source library and putting it into a drive at the destination library.”

HPE Tape Archiving

HPE is a big fan of the progress made by Linear Tape Open (LTO) technology. Simon Watkins, Worldwide Tape Product Marketing Manager, HP Storage, stressed that tape reliability has soared over the last decade. Today’s LTO technology employs a number of systems to help provide high data integrity: read-after-write verification to ensure the data has been written accurately, servo tracking mechanisms to provide precision head and tape alignment up to 250,000 hours mean time between failure, and advanced media formulations that can allow up to a 30-year shelf life or more.

In addition, the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) which was introduced with LTO-5 makes tape easier to use. LTFS provides a self-describing file system on an HP LTO-5 cartridge which makes tape as simple to access, use and share as a removable USB flash drive, said Watkins.

“LTO-6 media which provides 6.25 TB of compressed capacity per cartridge will retail at around $115, which translates to less than 2 cents per GB,” he said. “The current LTO tape format roadmap shows the technology scaling up to 32TB of compressed capacity per cartridge by Generation 8.”

HP’s latest generation of StoreEver Storage, which was launched earlier this month, delivers LTO-6 tape backup, disaster recovery, and archiving. The HP StoreEver LTO-6 tape family includes high-capacity and scalable tape drives, tape libraries, and tape media. They are said to deliver more than twice the capacity and 44 percent faster performance than LTO-5 in the same footprint.

HP’s LTO-6 portfolio spans standalone tape drives with up to 6.25 TB of compressed data storage per cartridge through enterprise-class tape libraries with over 7,000 tape cartridges, enabling the storage of up to 44.4 PB of compressed data.

Further, HP Tape Assure enables predictive and proactive monitoring of the health, utilization and performance of tape drives, tape libraries and tape media.

HP LTO-6 is backward compatible with LTO-5 and LTO-5 LTFS-written cartridges and read-compatible with LTO-4 for guaranteed investment protection.

“HP StoreEver Storage with LTFS technology makes LTO-6 tape as easy to use as disk and enables easy file access, reliable long-term archive retrieval and simpler transportability between systems,” said Watkins. “HP LTO-6 also helps reduce risk and ensure compliance with 30-year shelf-life media and hardware data encryption capabilities for enhanced security.”

Overland Tape Archiving

The NEO 8000e Enterprise-class tape library is Overland’s largest system for tape archiving. The library holds anywhere from 100 to 1000 cartridges and 1 to 24 LTO tape drives. The base-level price is $58,284 (Note: none of the other vendors featured here would provide specific pricing data). Features include easy customization, energy efficiency, reliability and high density (up to 3PB in less than 7 sq. ft.).

“Redundancy features (such as redundant power and robotics) ensure data availability and improved investment protection,” said Peri Grove, Overland Storage Director of Marketing for Tape Products. “The NEO 8000e tends to compete against other large tape libraries from companies such as Oracle and IBM. However, NEO 8000e delivers a much more affordable, cost-effective solution.”

He added that Overland continues to see renewed interest in all classes of tape libraries for data archiving purposes. While users may be using disk-based front ends for rapid access to mission-critical data, the legal, corporate and best-practices mandates that require original data to be stored off-line remain a critical part of the IT data storage initiative. And that means tape.

“As we continue to generate more and more data on a daily basis, the amount of data that needs to be archived continues to grow as well,” said Grove. “There is no storage solution on which you can store the data more affordably or more reliably than automated tape libraries such as the NEO 8000e.”

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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