In a flurry of announcements, the LTO world welcomed back the availability of LTO-8 media. Intellectual property battles may seem like a “problem” for magnetic tape storage, I have a much different view. The battle between Sony and Fuji Film indicates that not only is the magnetic tape media business a financially viable business, the innovation and complexity of tape production is worth protecting.
If Google and Apple and Samsung did not go toe-to-toe on their technologies once in a while, the tech pundits would begin to wonder if the value of the technology was worth having around. The difference was that usually the technology these companies battle over is technology integrated into a larger product, rarely warranting restricting the complete shipment of the larger product. It took 7 years for Apple and Samsung to resolve the early smart phone technology patent infringements. While both of the giants continued to release products on time.
Here we are a year later, with LTO-8 and LTO-9 essentially guaranteed to be available. That is 7 years of future bliss for LTO tape users, and current non-users that are yet to embrace the inevitable. Tape technologists are quick to pull out 2 arguments: 1) Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for active archives (that 80% of world stored data) is lower with tape than any other medium, 2) the technical areal density of tape provides it a long future, demonstrated with the latest 330TB demonstration. I am not going to try to convince you that having more funds available by saving money on long term storage is going to let you move to growing the business. I certainly am not going to reference the chart below and tell you the magic lines are most magic for tape, trust me! ;-)
Image 1.1 - Areal Density Chart
Even the HyperScale companies that are quick to point out how they develop and use the latest technology, have embraced Tape, I think... “Where’s the proof?” you say, “show me something beyond Google in 2010or Aaron Ogustalking tape in 2015.” Well, HyperScale’rs are pretty secretive, until they want an announcement, but there is glimmering proof beyond what industry insiders know. Look at Facebook’s Open Compute Project technical meeting schedules and you will find the discussions around Tape deployment. Have they deployed tape? I do not know, but they have separated from optical like a Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie divorce. Has Microsoft deployed tape? I do not know, but if not, Aaron Ogus has done his homework on the benefits!
What do these mega companies have in common with us plebs? Easy, we all have the same basic needs to grow our revenue, reduce our expense and keep out of regulatory trouble.
Image 1.2 - Basic Business Needs
According to IDC and the Cisco Global Cloud index 2018, data storage is growing at up to 63% CAGR for Hyperscale and enterprise customers. Once again, a bunch of data you already knew, you have way too much to save and no one wants to get rid of anything. Unlike the interventions on the TV show Hoarders, we cannot bring the team in and just start cleaning house. Your data has value, storage must cost less than the value of the data. If you are not using tape, and have at least a petabyte (PB) of data, give yourself an intervention.
LTO8 is not your grandfather’s tape.
Image 1.3 - TS4300 Modern Data Protection
No reel to reel, no media handling; that’s right, you are not going to put LTO8 on the truck, unless you have to, to save your business. Try that with Disk! Off-site for tape is as modern as every other system, utilizing network SDWAN to move data across the wire to Air-gap it in a secure facility. “truck net” is still referenced by Disk and cloud sellers that have no other argument to make except reference the tape usage of old, when there was no way to move many terabytes of data in a reasonable time period.
On the subject of managing tapes, most companies are no longer managing hundreds of thousands of tapes, unless they really are Hyperscale companies or Scientific research organizations like CERN. The data from 350,000 Tapes written in 1999 on the worlds highest capacity and fastest tape drives, can now fit in 3/4 of the slots of 1-frame of an IBM TS4500. Around 7PB of data! That configuration can be accessed from a file system interface providing full self-service archive access, with a proper performance priced SLA to your users.
Image 1.3 - 7PB from 70 gigantic libraries to 1 frame, fully automated.
Regardless if you just need a data hoarders intervention to control spiraling costs or you really are trying to “punch the lights out” on the cost of data security with true Air-Gap, IBM LTO8 solutions are the answer.
I want to leave this article with a little Tape geek out:
Understanding and embracing tape is not like skydiving, it’s way better. Tape is physical motion, logical data movement, chemistry and physics all rolled up in one sexy piece of hardware. If you want to experience excitement, stand next to an IBM TS4500 moving data across 20 drives and the picker clickity-clacking moving media. I fell in love with tape late in my tech career having focused on “programming” early on. Running testcases designed to test the hardware was exciting, you move the mechanisms way more than they were designed for. Take the leap, like skydiving, piloting your own plane or getting your first tattoo, you will find it exhilarating.