By Guest Blogger, Dr. Shawn O. Brume Sc. D., IBM Tape Evangelist and Strategist
According to a study by McKinsey, the average lifespan of companies listed in Standard & Poor’s is less than 18 years! That means that tape technology is already in business almost 4 times longer than the average S&P will survive. Tape technology celebrated 70 years young on May 21st. Tape has been and continues to be the most transforming data storage technology in history.
In the 50’s it was the only viable technology for storing data generated by the few computers in existence. In the 60’s tape took the world to the moon and preserved the data for usage nearly 40 years later when it was retrieved to assist in modern space explorations. By the 70’s Tape was dominating storage, transforming the financial industry by providing the ability to access data on accounts with minimal human intervention. The 80’s and 90’s continued the transformation of data availability by performing transactional data storage for ATMs, but also was key in the investigation of the space shuttle Challenger disaster; an investigation enhanced as a result of the durability of tape even when submerged in saltwater.
Today tape lives in the data center, preserving Zettabytes of data. Data being preserved and utilized across nearly every industry, examples:
Healthcare – Data preserved on tape is being utilized to develop new predictive health services. Digital medical records can be retained for the life of patients and shared across organizations.
Financial – Online transaction retention ensures customers valuable financial data is protected in the eventuality of a cyber-attack. Mortgage loans are preserved without fear of tampering.
Cloud – Data stored in public clouds are growing at a 30% faster rate than traditional storage. Cloud providers rely on tape to provide data durability and low-cost storage subscriptions.
Tape’s popularity has often been driven by the low cost of storage, modern data storage requires so much more including cyber-resiliency, data durability and low carbon footprints that enable sustainable IT.
Cyber Resiliency – Tape is the only true airgap data storage solution available.
Data Durability – Tape has a native single copy durability of 11- Nines. This means the likelihood of a single bit failure is 1 in 100 Petabytes.
Sustainability – At scale tape technology is 96% lower carbon footprint than highly dense HDD storage (when comparing OCP Bryce canyon and IBM tape technology with 27PB of data).
If preserving data, in a cyber-resilient solution, at low cost, with relatively low carbon impact meets your business outcomes, then why wait? Clearly tape is here to stay and surging in usage across nearly every business use case.
Happy 70-years to an amazing technology!
For more information about technology since tape’s introduction, check out this post from my colleague Mike Doran.
The Tape Storage Council, (TSC), released a new report “Tape to Play Critical Roles as the Zettabyte Era Takes Off,” which highlights the current trends, usages and technology innovations occurring within the tape storage industry. The zettabyte era is in full swing generating unprecedented capacity demand as many businesses move closer to Exascale storage requirements.
According to the LTO Program, 148 Exabytes (EB) of total tape capacity (compressed) shipped in 2021, marking an impressive record year. With a growth rate of 40%, this strong performance in shipments continues following the previous record-breaking 110 EB capacity shipped in 2019 and 105 EB of capacity shipped in the pandemic affected year of 2020.
The ever-increasing thirst for IT services has pushed energy usage, carbon emissions, and reducing the storage industry’s growing impact on global climate change to center stage. Plus, ransomware and cybercrime protection requirements are driving increased focus on air gap protection measures.
As a result of these trends, among others, the TSC expects tape to play an even broader role in the IT ecosystem going forward as the number of exabyte-sized environments grow. Key trends include:
Data-intensive applications and workflows fuel new tape growth.
Data accessibility. Tape performance improves access times and throughput.
Tape should be included in every green data center strategy.
Storage optimization receives a big boost from an active archive which provides dynamic optimization and fast data access for archival storage systems.
Organizations continue to invest in LTO tape technology thanks to its high capacity, reliability, low cost, low power consumption and strong data protection features, especially as threats to cybersecurity soar.
The LTO Technology Provider Companies (IBM, HPE, and Quantum) issued a press release earlier this week announcing record capacity shipments for LTO in 2021 of 148 Exabytes (148,000 Petabytes) compressed (up from 105 EB compressed in 2020, +40%). More and more of the world’s data is being stored on LTO data tape. That’s good news for the IT industry! Is it not? After all, end users and service providers need:
A strategic way to store and protect massive amounts of increasingly valuable data, especially data that’s gone cool or cold
A cost-effective and reliable long term storage solution
An air gap defense against cybercrime
An eco-friendly form of storage!
Industry Pundits React Some industry pundits, biased toward the HDD industry, took the opportunity to downplay the news. They said the data is inaccurate or insignificant compared to the capacity shipments for HDD last year. Really? Does tape technology threaten the market for HDD? Is it still about tape vs. disk in their minds? Have trains, trucks, and ships put air freight out of business? Or does a more strategic thought process say: “These technologies complement each other. We need both to meet the needs of end-users, storage service providers, and society itself…”
Analysts Predict Huge Zettabyte Demand Indeed, if the big industry analysts firms are right, we will need to be storing more than 11.0 zettabytes of data in 2025. Just one zettabyte would require 55 million 18.0 TB HDDs or 55 million LTO-9 tape cartridges. Should we store all of that data on HDD, whether it is hot, warm, cool, or cold? Of course, we can’t just delete excess data. Now that we can analyze the data and derive a competitive advantage from it, the value of data has increased and we need to store more and more data for longer periods of time. As a result, the projections for the amount of persistent data to be stored are growing exponentially. We will need huge amounts of flash, HDD, tape, and even future storage solutions like DNA to address the data storage challenge.
A Strategic Approach to Data Storage The key to success will be a strategic approach that leverages intelligent data management software to automate data movement to the right tiers of storage at the right time, the right cost, and the right energy profile. Employing a strategic approach to data storage in an effort to reduce costs and energy consumption all while maintaining service level agreements seems to make sense. Take a good look at an active archive solution, for example. Yet again, there are those industry pundits who say, the amount of energy saved by moving static, inactive, and infrequently accessed data to a tape tier is not significant in the big picture of the IT industry. The real problem they say is the amount of energy consumed by a single Google search. But isn’t that like saying; “Don’t bother turning the lights out before leaving the office for the night. It’s just a drop in the ocean of energy consumption,” or “Why bother turning off the engine of your car when filling up on gas? It’s just a few minutes of idle time and won’t really impact CO2 emissions at all.” Right?
Change of Attitude Needed But this is the wrong attitude and exactly what has to change to make a difference. Collectively, if we all switch off a light and all turn the car’s engine off, we will make a difference. We might even get motivated for more change! How about installing LED light bulbs or investing in an electric vehicle? Or maybe make the commitment and take the leadership on a renewable energy installation. Attitudes have to change, believing we can make a difference collectively. If data is inactive, why keep it on energy-intensive, constantly spinning disk? Are we all doing whatever it takes to make a difference?
New Flagship UN Report Is a Wake-up Call If we believe the latest studies on climate change coming out of the United Nations, we need to start quickly taking any action we can. A new UN report on climate change from earlier this month indicated that harmful carbon emissions in the last decade have never been higher in earth’s history. It’s proof that the world is on a “fast track” to climate disaster. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned that it’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees C. Climate change is the result of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles, and patterns of consumption and production. Guterres adds, “This is not fiction or exaggeration. It is what science tells us will result from our current energy policies. We are on a pathway to global warming of more than double the 1.5-degrees C limit” that was agreed in Paris in 2015. To limit global warming to around 1.5 C (2.7 F), the IPCC report insists that global greenhouse gas emissions will have to peak “before 2025 at the latest, and be reduced by 43% by 2030.”
Reducing Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions with Tape To help increase awareness and understanding of energy consumption in data storage, a number of whitepapers have been published highlighting alternative options for storage including LTO data tape. A recent IDC whitepaper studied migrating cold data from HDDs to LTO tape. The opportunity to positively impact the environment by shifting to tape is staggering. This strategic approach can reduce storage-related CO2 emissions by, coincidently, 43.7% by 2030. This would avoid 664 M metric tons of CO2 cumulatively. That’s the equivalent amount of CO2 produced by 144 million passenger cars driven in the course of a year!
Other research shows that tape consumes 87% less energy than equivalent amounts of HDD storage. When CO2 emissions are analyzed over the entire product lifecycle (from raw materials to production to distribution, usage, and disposal) of HDD and tape, studies show a 95% reduction in CO2 in favor of tape compared to HDD. The same study shows Total Cost of Ownership for long-term data storage can be reduced by more than 70% by using tape instead of HDD. At the same time, tape can provide an effective defense against cybercrime via a physical air gap. All of this is possible by taking a strategic storage approach, where cool or cold data that has aged and is infrequently accessed gets moved from expensive primary storage to economical and environmentally friendly tape systems, online or offline.
Data Center World Attendees Get It In my last blog on my visit and presentation at Data Center World in Austin last month, I mentioned that I was encouraged by the DCW attendees that I met and listened to in my session and other sessions. They are genuinely concerned about the environment and worried about what kind of planet we will be leaving behind for our kids and grandchildren. They recognize the opportunity to improve sustainability in data center operations and are committed to it. But since then it has occurred to me that maybe sustainability is more of a focus for facility teams. Perhaps the top-down pressure from the C-suite has yet to be widely applied to the data storage management teams. However, in the quest to achieve the needed sustainability goals, no stone can remain unturned.
Observing Earth Day for Future Generations With Earth Day being observed today, let’s commit to strategically taking action in response to global warming and climate change. Let’s start changing attitudes from “It won’t make a difference” to “Collectively, we can make a difference.” Let’s look at the bright side of increasing LTO capacity shipments instead of the dark, self-serving side. Let’s think about the planet that’s home for us and the future generations of our families to come.
The recent release of LTO-9 makes it clear that LTO tape serves the needs of enterprise environments. The cloud hyperscalers and many large organizations are firm believers in LTO tape as the best medium for large-scale storage and archiving.
Despite only being released in early September, tape drives and systems are now available for LTO-9 from the likes of IBM, Quantum, and Spectra Logic. On the media side, companies such as Fujifilm and Sony have launched LTO-9 tape cartridges.
LTO-9 Delivers Capacity and Performance
Fujifilm’s LTO Ultrium 9 data cartridge, for example, offers up to 45 TB of storage capacity (18 TB for non-compressed data), a 50% increase from the previous generation of LTO-8. The boost in storage capacity is achieved using Barium Ferrite (BaFe) magnetic particles, formulated into fine particles with Fujifilm’s Nanocubic technology that evenly distributes the magnetic particles on the tape surface, forming a smooth and thin magnetic layer for improved read/write performance. LTO-9 also delivers high-speed data transfer reaching up to 1,000MB/sec. for compressed data (400MB/sec. native), a 25% increase over LTO-8.
LTO-9 Deployment at CERN
I recently had the opportunity to interview Vladimir Bahyl, a beta LTO-9 user at world-renowned CERN. Vladimir, who is in charge of data archiving at CERN is now rolling out LTO-9 within his storage environment. This is where data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is stored. Massive amounts of data have been generated to date in experiments using a particle collider that measures 17 miles in circumference and is located roughly 100 meters below the France–Switzerland border. Tape has been in use at CERN for about five decades, and the organization currently stores around 400 PB on tape. This enables CERN to keep pace with the data explosion.
After a three-year break for upgrades, the collider is about to recommence operation. The IT department expects up to 180 PB of data to be added in 2022. CERN can cope with that quantity of information courtesy of a sophisticated tape-disk-SSD architecture. All results and all raw data from all CERN experiments are stored on tape and archived. When anything needs to be analyzed, it is transferred to disk and SSD.
Leveraging oRAO for Enhanced Access Time
A feature known as Open Recommended Access Order (oRAO) was included in LTO media for the first time with LTO-9. oRAO enables the retrieval of tape content in a more efficient way. Instead of sequentially laying out data on tape, oRAO takes advantage of multiple serpentine tracks on one tape to arrange data for more rapid access. According to testing at CERN, oRAO can position tape for data access anywhere from 30% to 70% faster than traditional sequential tape. What this adds up to is the need for fewer tape drives for the data recall workflow. If more backup vendors adopt this technology, it could seriously reduce the time needed for a restore.
Benefits of Tape at CERN
Users such as CERN gravitate toward tape for many reasons. In terms of long-term stability, data can still be recovered from tape after 30 years, whereas hard drives struggle to retain data beyond five years. Tape reliability is higher too. CERN has dozens of hard drives failing every week (out of tens of thousands it has on-site) compared to a negligible failure rate for tape.
But economics certainly factor in. Tape brings big savings in terms of CAPEX and OPEX. From an operating expense standpoint, tape consumes no power while tape cartridges are sitting idle, so it’s cost-effective and eco-friendly. The most cost-effective technology for large-scale, long-term storage is tape. And as it offers an air gap, to thwart online hackers, it raises the level of security.
In terms of reliability, the Fujifilm tape used at CERN performed well during a recent tape repacking project to switch older cartridges to the latest tape generation format. Out of 100 PB of tape that was read and repacked (6,300 miles of physical media), only 5 GB (3.5 feet) of data was corrupted – but even those files were recovered soon after.
The newly released whitepaper from IT analyst firm ESG (Enterprise Strategy Group), sponsored by IBM and Fujifilm, entitled, “How Tape Technology Delivers Value in Modern Data-driven Businesses,” focuses on exciting, new advances in tape technology that are now positioning tape for a critical role in effective data protection and retention in the age of zettabyte (ZB) storage. That’s right “zettabyte storage!”
The whitepaper cites the need to store 17 ZB of persistent data by 2025. This includes “cold data” stored long-term and rarely accessed that is estimated to account for 80% of all data stored today. Just one ZB is a tremendous amount of data equal to one million petabytes that would need 55 million 18 TB hard drives or 55 million 18 TB LTO-9 tapes to store. Just like the crew in the movie Jaws needed a bigger boat, the IT industry is going to need higher capacity SSDs, HDDs, and higher density tape cartridges! On the tape front, help is on the way as demonstrated by IBM and Fujifilm in the form of a potential 580 TB capacity tape cartridge. Additional highlights from ESG’s whitepaper are below.
New Tape Technology IBM and Fujifilm set a new areal density record of 317 Gb/sq. inch on linear magnetic tape translating to a potential cartridge capacity of 580 TB native featuring a new magnetic particle called Strontium Ferrite (SrFe) with the ability to deliver capacities that extend well beyond disk, LTO, and enterprise tape roadmaps. SrFe magnetic particles are 60% smaller than the current defacto standard Barium Ferrite magnetic particles yet exhibit even better magnetic signal strength and archival life. On the hardware front, the IBM team has developed tape head enhancements and servo technologies to leverage even narrower data tracks to contribute to the increase in capacity.
The Case for Tape at Hyperscalers and Others Hyperscale data centers are major new consumers of tape technologies due to their need to manage massive data volumes while controlling costs. Tape is allowing hyperscalers including cloud service providers to achieve business objectives by providing data protection for critical assets, archival capabilities, easy capacity scaling, the lowest TCO, high reliability, fast throughput, low power consumption, and air gap protection. But tape also makes sense for small to large enterprise data centers facing the same data growth challenges including the need to scale their environments while keeping their costs down.
Data Protection, Archive, Resiliency, Intelligent Data Management According to an ESG survey revealed in the whitepaper, tape users identified reliability, cybersecurity, long archival life, low cost, efficiency, flexibility, and capacity as top attributes in tape usage today and favor tape for its long-term value. Data is growing relentlessly with longer retention periods as the value of data is increasing thanks to the ability to apply advanced analytics to derive a competitive advantage. Data is often kept for longer periods to meet compliance, regulatory, and for corporate governance reasons. Tape is also playing a role in cybercrime prevention with WORM, encryption, and air gap capabilities. Intelligent data management software, typical in today’s active archive environments, automatically moves data from expensive, energy-intensive tiers of storage to more economical and energy-efficient tiers based on user-defined policies.
ESG concludes that tape is the strategic answer to the many challenges facing data storage managers including the growing amount of data as well as TCO, cybersecurity, scalability, reliability, energy efficiency, and more. IBM and Fujifilm’s technology demonstration ensures the continuing role of tape as data requirements grow in the future and higher capacity media is required for cost control with the benefit of CO2 reductions among others. Tape is a powerful solution for organizations that adopt it now!
As recently announced by Fujifilm, LTO-9 has arrived and is available for immediate delivery. It certainly comes at a time when the IT industry is so challenged to manage rampant data growth, control costs, reduce carbon footprint and fight off cyber-attacks. LTO-9 is coming to market just in time to meet all of these challenges with the right features like capacity, low cost, energy efficiency, and cyber security.
What a Great Run for LTO First of all, it is remarkable to look at how far LTO Ultrium technology has come since its introduction. LTO made its market debut in 2000 with the first generation LTO-1 at 100/200 GB native/compressed capacity with 384 data tracks. Transfer rate was just 20 MB native and 40 MB compressed per second. Fast forward 21 years to the availability of LTO-9 now with 18/45 TB native/ compressed capacity on 8,960 data tracks, with transfer rate increasing to 400 MB per second, 1,000 MB per second compressed! In terms of compressed capacity, that’s a 225X increase compared to LTO-1. Since 2000, Fujifilm alone has manufactured and sold over 170 million LTO tape cartridges, a pretty good run indeed.
Capacity to Absorb Bloated Data Sets We are firmly in the zettabyte age now and it’s no secret that data is growing faster than most organizations can handle. With compound annual data growth rates of 30 to 60% for most organizations, keeping data protected for the long term is increasingly challenging. Just delete it you say? That’s not an option as the value of data is increasing rapidly thanks to the many analytics tools we now have to derive value from it. If we can derive value from that data, even older data sets, then we want to keep it indefinitely. But this data can’t economically reside on Tier 1 or Tier 2 storage. Ideally, it will move to Tier 3 tape as an archive or active archive where online access can be maintained. LTO-9 is perfect for this application thanks to its large capacity (18 TB native, 45 TB compressed) and high data transfer rate (400 MB sec native, 1,000 MB sec compressed).
Lowest TCO to Help Control Costs Understanding your true total cost of ownership is of vital importance today as exponential data growth continues unabated. The days of just throwing more disk at storage capacity issues without any concern for cost are long gone. In fact, studies show that IT budgets on average are growing at less than 2.0% annually yet data growth is in the range of 30% to 60%. That’s a major disconnect! When compared to disk or cloud options, automated tape systems have the lowest TCO profile even for relatively low volumes of data less than one petabyte. And for larger workloads, the TCO is even more compelling. Thanks to LTO-9’s higher capacity and fast transfer rate, the efficiency of automated tape systems will improve keeping the TCO advantage firmly on tape’s side.
Lowest Energy Profile to Reduce Carbon Footprint Perhaps of even greater concern these days are the environmental impacts of energy-intensive IT operations and their negative effect on global warming and climate change. You may have thought 2020 was a pretty bad year, being tied for the hottest year on record with 2016. Remember the raging forest fires out West or the frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms? Well, it turns out 2021 is just as bad if not worse with the Caldor Fire and Hurricane IDA fresh in our memory.
Tape technology has a major advantage in terms of energy consumption as tape systems require no energy unless tapes are being read or written to in a tape drive. Otherwise, tapes that are idle in a library slot or vaulted offsite consume no energy. As a result, the CO2 footprint is significantly lower than always on disk systems, constantly spinning and generating heat that needs to be cooled. Studies show that tape systems consume 87% less energy and therefore produce 87% less CO2 than equivalent amounts of disk storage in the actual usage phase. More recent studies show that when you look at the total life cycle from raw materials and manufacturing to distribution, usage, and disposal, tape actually produces 95% less CO2 than disk. When you consider that 60% to 80% of data quickly gets cold with the frequency of access dropping off after just 30, 60, or 90 days, it only makes sense to move that data from expensive, energy-intensive tiers of storage to inexpensive energy-efficient tiers like tape. The energy profile of tape only improves with higher capacity generations such as LTO-9.
A Last Line of Defense Against Cybercrime Once again, 2021 is just as bad if not worse than 2020 when it comes to cybercrime and ransomware attacks. Every webinar you attend on this subject will say something to the effect of: “it’s not a question of if; it’s a question of when you will become the next ransomware victim.” The advice from the FBI is pretty clear: “Backup your data, system images, and configurations, test your backups, and keep backups offline.”
This is where the tape air gap plays an increasingly important role. Tape cartridges have always been designed to be easily removable and portable in support of any disaster recovery scenario. Thanks to the low total cost of ownership of today’s high-capacity automated tape systems, keeping a copy of mission-critical data offline, and preferably offsite, is economically feasible – especially considering the prevalence of ransomware attacks and the associated costs of recovery, ransom payments, lost revenue, profit, and fines.
In the event of a breach, organizations can retrieve a backup copy from tape systems, verify that it is free from ransomware and effectively recover. The high capacity of LTO-9 makes this process even more efficient, with fewer pieces of media moving to and from secure offsite locations.
The Strategic Choice for a Transforming World LTO-9 is the “strategic” choice for organizations because using tape to address long-term data growth and volume is strategic, adding disk is simply a short-term tactical measure. It’s easy to just throw more disks at the problem of data growth, but if you are being strategic about it, you invest in a long-term tape solution.
The world is “transforming” amidst the COVID pandemic as everyone has to do more with less and budgets are tight, digital transformation has accelerated, and we are now firmly in the zettabyte age which means we have more data to manage efficiently, cost-effectively, and in an environmentally friendly way. The world is also transforming as new threats like cybercrime become a fact of life, not just a rare occurrence that happens to someone else. In this respect, LTO-9 indeed comes to market at the right time with the right features to meet all of these challenges.
In this Q&A, we talk to Andy Feather, Sr. Director, Engineering & Technical Services at FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc. about the company’s tape manufacturing process and robust sustainability efforts.
How long has Fujifilm been manufacturing LTO tapes in the U.S.?
We first started LTO tape manufacturing here in Bedford in September 2003. This was the start of LTO-1 and we have made every generation since then up to the current LTO-8.
How has the manufacturing process changed over the years?
At the start of LTO production, as with most start-up manufacturing processes, it was a very manual process, over the years we have added more and more automation. We’ve also refined our methods for controlling the manufacturing equipment so, for example, on the winding machines, we focus on preventive maintenance and sophisticated process control to monitor the quality during the tape winding process. This allows us to reduce the dependence on testing cartridges after they have been wound.
In our packaging operations, we have focused on improvements for the environment. We’ve introduced soy-based inks for all our printed materials and we’ve eliminated most of the paper instruction sheets and user labels. We’ve switched to recycled paper and corrugated and reduced the thickness of the plastic cases. In our latest “bulk” packaging design we have eliminated corrugated completely and reduced the use of plastic shrink film to the absolute bare minimum.
“Having our manufacturing facility in the U.S. allows us to respond quickly to any customer request.” – Andy Feather
What are the advantages of having a manufacturing facility located in the U.S.?
Having our manufacturing facility in the U.S. allows us to respond quickly to any customer request. Much of our production volume is customized with barcode labels specific to a customer’s order. We can receive the order, custom print and apply the barcode labels, and then drop ship to any location in the U.S. within 48 hours.
Was Fujifilm’s manufacturing facility impacted by COVID?
As an essential business, our manufacturing facility has remained open through the pandemic. Naturally, we took every precaution to ensure our employees remained safe, including providing masks and reorganizing the facility to accommodate for social distancing. During the peak of the pandemic last year we minimized the number of staff on-site to just the critical manufacturing employees. To achieve this we implemented working from home for as many of the administrative functions as possible. We also implemented a strict visitor policy that ensured that only visitors essential to the ongoing functioning of the manufacturing facility was permitted on-site and while on-site all visitors were required to follow the COVID restrictions,
What changed during COVID and have you kept some of the new processes you may have implemented?
As the pandemic thankfully subsided in the fall of last year we were able to relax some of the restrictions and gradually bring more people back into the facility. We still have people working from home and continue to social distance while in the facility. With the experience from last year, we are looking at our work from home policy to allow continued flexibility for our employees where possible.
What are some of the green initiatives manufacturing has initiated?
The solar panel installation project at our Bedford manufacturing facility began in response to a FUJIFILM corporate mission of energy conservation and Greenhouse gas reduction to address issues of climate change. With 1,870 solar modules, our solar installation has produced 2,977,000 kWh since its inception in November of 2013. That is the equivalent amount of energy used by 4,666 homes during an entire month. It is also the equivalent to a reduction of 1,787 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Over 20 years, this would equal the carbon sequestered by 7,280 acres of U.S. forest in one year.
In addition to our solar panels, we have just recently converted to LED lighting in our manufacturing facility. By converting to LED bulbs we will reduce our carbon footprint by approximately one-third, minimize daily maintenance work, decrease our UV emissions to zero and overall be more energy efficient. With over 3,000 bulbs replaced, we estimate a savings of 400,000 kWh this year!
Of course, tape is the greenest form of data storage available consuming 87% less energy than the equivalent hard drive storage.
What are some of the largest accomplishments manufacturing has achieved that you are particularly proud of?
Fujifilm continues to innovate the technology of LTO tape working with our OEM partners to further enhance the performance of LTO tape cartridges. As each successive generation of LTO is released, tape cartridge capacity and performance increase which naturally imposes tighter and tighter requirements on the tape, the cartridge, and all the components that go into the product. In manufacturing, we’ve been able to innovate the production processes to stay ahead of the technical challenges of manufacturing a product that operates in the realm of sub-nanometer tolerances. We’ve achieved this through a continual focus on automation and the dedication and expertise of our engineers and technical personnel.
By Tony Ling, Director of Sales, Fujifilm Recording Media U.S.A., Inc.
After the initial shock and disruption of the pandemic, one industry that has rebounded nicely is the world of Media & Entertainment (M&E). Hollywood, video production, and post-production companies have adapted to making films in a COVID environment. At the same time, streaming grew significantly with most of the population homebound. Services such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Paramount all reported record subscriber growth over the last 15 months…..driving up the demand for new and original content.
Today, the retention and accessibility of digital assets and video content are incredibly vital to maintaining a competitive advantage. As a result, many modern M&E companies continue to assign starring roles to LTO data tape in their workflows to combat the rising expense associated with retaining and protecting capacity-intensive high-res content. 4K, 8K, 3D, and special effects can result in petabytes of storage for a single production!
With its high capacity, reliability, interchangeability, and security, the industry standard for deliverables has long been LTO tape…..this could be anything from daily camera footage, to post/edited work, approval copies, second copies, versions, final product, archival copies, etc. LTO tape is truly a defacto standard and an accepted part of the workflow in the M&E world.
Why are leading M&E companies turning to tape?
More M&E companies are recognizing the advantages of LTO tape, which can store massive amounts of data and combat ever-increasing storage costs across production, post-production, distribution, or archiving. Tape’s starring roles include:
Extremely cost-effective with the lowest TCO in the industry
LTO tape is an ideal solution for M&E companies. LTO is an open format designed for interoperability and together with LTFS, provides easy data access and management—perfect for easy file share, high performance, and improved workflow.
So, the next time you are streaming Star Trek Discovery on Paramount+ or The Mandalorian on Disney+, just remember that somewhere along the way of the making of that show, an LTO tape played a starring role!
Recently my neighborhood had a rash of car break-ins by what turned out to be just a band of mischievous teenagers. But what struck me about this occurrence was the flood of homeowner video surveillance clips that appeared on social media and that were sent to the local police department to help identify the wrongdoers. It seems like everyone in the neighborhood has a home video surveillance system, perhaps to catch a doorstep package thief, or if nothing else, to catch the guilty dog walkers!
A Booming Market for Video Surveillance Solutions
Indeed, the video surveillance market is booming, not just in the relatively nascent consumer market, but in the commercial market and has been for a long time – in a much bigger way. The reasons for this include more affordable cameras with better resolutions soaring from 720p up to 4k and even 8k. In the meantime, video surveillance systems are finding more and more applications. Retail shopping malls, banks, hotels, city streets, transportation and highways, manufacturing and distribution operations, airport security, college dorm and campus security, corporate security, police body and dash cams, to name just a few – all need good quality video surveillance.
Video Retention Costs Soar
However, these higher resolution cameras have sent the costs of video retention soaring. So much high-resolution raw footage quickly fills up available hard disk drives commonly used to store or retain video surveillance content. According to a Seagate video surveillance calculator, an installation of 100 cameras recording eight hours a day at 30 frames per second, 1080p resolution, with a retention period of 90 days would require 2,006 terabytes of storage. That’s 2.0 petabytes of expensive, energy-intensive hardware. Those with unlimited budgets can simply add more disks. But everyone else faces tough choices: shorten retention periods? lower video resolution? reduce the number of cameras or frames per second? None of these support the goals of why the video surveillance system was installed in the first place.
In mid-December 2020, Fujifilm issued a press release to announce that, together with IBM Research, they had successfully achieved a record areal density of 317 Gbpsi (billion bits per square inch) on next-generation magnetic tape coated with next-generation Strontium Ferrite (SrFe) magnetic particles. This areal density achievement would yield an amazing native storage capacity of 580TB on a standard-sized data cartridge. That’s almost 50 times more capacity than what we have now with an LTO-8 tape based on Barium Ferrite (BaFe) at 12TB native.
Shortly after the news came out, I was on a call with a member of our sales team discussing the announcement and he asked me when the 580TB cartridge would be available and if there was any pricing information available yet? He was also curious about transfer speed performance. I had to admit that those details are still TBD, so he asked me “what are the 3 big takeaways” from the release? So let’s dive into what those takeaways are.
Tape has no fundamental technology roadblocks
To understand the magnitude of tape areal density being able to reach 317 Gbpsi, we have to understand just how small that is in comparison to HDD technology. Current HDD areal density is already at or above 1,000 Gbpsi while achieving 16TB to 20TB per drive on as many as nine disk platters. This level of areal density is approaching what is known as the “superparamagnetic limitation,” where the magnetic particle is so small that it starts to flip back and forth between positive and negative charge. Not ideal for long-term data preservation.
So to address this, HDD manufacturers have employed things like helium-filled drives to allow for closer spacing between disk platters that allow for more space for more platters, and therefore more capacity. HDD manufacturers are also increasing capacity with new techniques for recording involving heat (HAMR) or microwaves (MAMR) and other techniques. As a result HDD capacities are expected to reach up to 50TB within the next five years or so. The reason tape can potentially reach dramatically higher capacities has to do with the fact that a tape cartridge contains over 1,000 meters of half-inch-wide tape, and, therefore, has far greater surface area than a stack of even eight or nine 3.5-inch disk platters.
But let’s also look at track density in addition to areal density. Think about the diameter of a single strand of human hair which is typically 100 microns wide. If a single data track on HDD is 50 nanometers wide, you are looking at 2,000 data tracks for HDD on the equivalent width of a single strand of human hair! For tape, with a track width of approximately 1,200 nanometers, you are looking at just 84 data tracks. But this is actually a positive for tape technology because it shows that tape has a lot of headroom in both areal density and track density, and that will lead to higher capacities and help to maintain a low TCO for tape.
But let me make it clear that this is not about HDD vs. tape. We are now in the zettabyte age having shipped just over an impressive one zettabyte (1,000 exabytes) of new storage capacity into the global market in 2019 of all media types. According to IDC, that number will balloon to a staggering 7.5 ZB by 2025. We will need a lot of HDDs and a lot of tape (and flash for that matter) to store 7.5 ZB!
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