This year marks the 10 year anniversary of IBM's introduction of LTO tape technology. IBM is a member of the Linear Tape Open consortium which consists of IBM, HP and Quantum, referred to as "Technology Provider Companies" or TPCs. In an earlier job role, I was the "portfolio manager" for both LTO and Enterprise tape product lines.
In honor of this event, I decided to interview Bruce Master, IBM Senior Program Manager for Data Protection Systems, about this 10 year anniversary.
10 years of LTO technology is a great milestone. How is this especially significant to IBM and its clients?
According to IDC data, IBM has held the #1 leader position in market share for total world wide branded tape revenue for over 7 years and that IBM is still #1 in branded midrange tape revenue which includes the LTO tape technologies. IBM was the first drive manufacturer to deliver LTO-1 drives, back in September 2000, the first to deliver tape drive encryption to the marketplace on LTO-4 drives, and is shipping LTO generation 5 drives and libraries. IBM is the author of the new Linear Tape File System (LTFS) specification that has been adopted by the TPCs. This file system revolutionizes how tape can be used as if it were a giant 1.5 terabyte removable USB memory stick with the capability to be accessed with directory tree structures and drag and drop functionality. With LTO's built-in real-time compression, a single tape cartridge can hold up to 3TB of data.
The Linear Tape File System has been getting a lot of attention. Where can we learn more about it?
Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center invented the [Linear Tape File System], released it as Open Source under the name [IBM Long Term File System], and contributed the specification to the LTO consortium. On the [Ultrium.com] website, you can read articles written about the file system, the specification [60-page PDF] document and a [video demo] of the file system in action. There is also an article out on [Wikipedia].
Why is tape still a critical part of a storage infrastructure?
Tape is low cost and provides critical off-line portable storage to help protect data from attacks that can occur with on-line data. For instance, on-line data is at risk of attack from a virus, hacker, system error, disgruntled employee, and more. Since tape is off-line, not accessible by the system, it protects against these forms of corruption. LTO technology also provides write-once read-many (WORM) tape media to help address compliance issues that specify non-erasable, non-rewriteable (NENR) storage, hardware encryption to secure data, as well as a low cost long term archive media. When data cools off, or becomes infrequently accessed, why keep it on spinning disk? Move it to tape where it is much greener and lower cost. A tape in a slot on a shelf consumes minimal energy.
So tape is not dead?
Ha! Far from it. Seems like disk-only "specialty shop" storage vendors that don’t have tape in their sales portfolio are the ones that propagate that myth. In reality, storage managers are tasked with meeting complex objectives for performance, compliance, security, data protection, archive and total cost of ownership. Optimally, a blend of disk and tape in a tiered infrastructure can best address these objectives. You can’t build a house with just a hammer. IBM has a rich tool kit of storage offerings including disk, tape, software, services and deduplication technologies to help clients address their needs.
Do you have an example of a client who was saved by tape?
Yes indeed. Estes Express, a large trucking firm, was hit by a hurricane that flooded their data center and destroyed all systems. Fortunately the company survived because the night before they had backed up all data on to IBM tape and moved the cartridges offsite! The company survived and has since implemented a best practices data protection strategy with a combination of disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) using LTO tape at the primary site, and a remote global mirrored site that is also backed up to LTO tape.
So tape saved the day. What is the outlook for tape innovation in the future?
The future is bright for tape. Earlier this year, IBM and Fujifilm were able to [demonstrate a tape density achievement] that could enable a native 35TB tape cartridge capacity! This shows a long roadmap ahead for tape and a continued good night’s sleep for storage managers knowing that their precious data will be safe.
Of course, LTO tape is just one of the many reasons IBM is a successful and profitable leader in the IT storage industry. Doug Balog talked about his experiences in London for the [October 7th launch] of IBM DS8800, Storwize V7000 and SAN Volume Controller 6.1. Sanjay Tripathi showed recent successes with IBM's ProtecTIER Data Deduplication Solution and Information Archive products.
I would like to thank Bruce Master for his time in completing this interview. To learn more about IBM tape and storage offerings, visit [ibm.com/storage].