FUJIFILM INSIGHTS BLOG

Data Storage

Colonial Pipeline Ransomware Hack Reinforces the Need for a Tape Air Gap to Support 5 Best Practices Recommended by the FBI

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May 27, 2021

By Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism

Ransomware attacks used to be relatively simple, if unpleasant, affairs. A device would be compromised, the user locked out, and a ransom notice would appear: Pay up if you want to access those files again. On an organizational level, hackers would sometimes gain enough presence in the network to be able to lock IT and users out of their systems. Many of these attacks would go largely unnoticed, even unreported with minimal impact to anyone except the victim organization.

But the Colonial Pipeline hack added a more sinister element – shutting down the pipeline backbone that provides 45% of the gasoline consumed by most of the U.S. eastern seaboard. Gas prices spiked as supplies began to run out. Lines appeared as panic set in at the pumps. The pipeline operator acted quickly and made a ransom payment of $4.4 million dollars in bitcoin to the cybercriminals behind the breach. In return, they provided Colonial with a decryption tool to regain access to their systems. Not surprisingly, the decryption tool turned out to be less than effective, forcing Colonial to restore from existing backups anyway.

But the success of the attack and money paid over is likely to embolden hackers to go after even more lucrative infrastructure targets. That’s why the FBI strongly advises organizations not to pay a ransom. It’s not unlike the policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists. Paying the ransom not only emboldens the criminals, it does not guarantee complete recovery or prevent repeated ransomware attacks. The more you give in to their demands, the more likely they are to try again.

But Colonial Pipeline paid after careful consideration of what was best for all those that depend on its infrastructure. Some are now wondering if the FBI will carry out its threat to fine Colonial and those who do decide to pay out a ransom. This remains to be seen. Yet, in the high-stakes game of oil and gas, any fine is likely to be no more than a minor inconvenience compared to the potential revenue and profits at risk – perhaps one of the motivations behind the company paying fairly soon after the attack.

Brazen Attacks on the Rise

Expect, then, even more brazen and perhaps costly attacks on U.S. infrastructure, government, industry, and essential services. Remember the SolarWinds saga from earlier in the year? The vulnerabilities of the U.S. Government and its software contractors exposed in this case prompted the White House executive order on “Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity” issued on May 12th.  The fall-out from the Colonial Pipeline attack will likely lead to stiffer regulations imposed on pipeline operators and other critical infrastructure players. The broader market needs to pay attention, too, as the frequency of ransomware continues to rise:

  • Department of Homeland Security figures show a 300% increase in ransomware in 2020 compared to the previous year.
  • Small business targets paid out $350 million in ransoms last year.
  • Attacks on schools, local government systems, and healthcare providers have risen sharply.
  • And the volume of ransomware victims is expected to rise sharply this year.

Most organizations are understandably far more focused on their primary mission than on instituting cybersecurity measures. This often makes them easy targets. All it takes is one slip by IT or one gullible user and the bad guys can move in and do their damage. Increasingly, that damage involves ransomware.

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Why Active Archiving is a Hot Concept in Storage Today

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May 19, 2021

By Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism

The 2021 Active Archive Alliance annual market report has just been released, entitled “Saved by the Data. Active Archive Leads the Way in a Mid-Pandemic World”.

Certainly, the COVID pandemic was a shock to many companies and put tremendous strain on operations, revenue, and profit. But those companies who had already implemented a sensible active archive strategy were at a competitive advantage thanks to their ability to intelligently manage access to their data.

I think active archiving, the practice of keeping data online all the time and easily accessible to users, is a hot concept in storage right now because it is really about optimization – getting the right data in the right place, at the right time, and at the right cost.

We know that IT budgets are not keeping up with the relentless growth of data. We also know that 60% to 80% of data quickly becomes archival. Typically after 30, 60, or 90 days, files become static and the frequency of access drops off. So why keep that kind of data on expensive primary storage?

Why not let intelligent data management software that is typical of an active archive solution move that data by user-defined policy from high performance, expensive tiers, to lower performance but more cost-effective tiers like economy disk or tape systems, or even cloud? All while maintaining transparent access for users.

We know that the value of data is increasing, retention periods are getting longer, and users want to maintain ready access to their data without IT staff intervention. But we also need to worry about the bottom line, about efficiency, compliance, sustainability, and cybersecurity! Active archiving provides the right solutions to these worries and that’s why it is such a hot concept in storage today.

But enough said, read the full report here and check out what Alliance members had to say in their related virtual conference.

 

 

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Reducing IT’s Carbon Footprint via Tape While Improving Cybersecurity and Protecting the Bottom Line

Reading Time: 4 minutes

May 4, 2021

By Drew Robb, Guest Blogger

There is increasing pressure around the world to reduce emissions and lower mankind’s carbon footprint. It is up to the IT sector to do its part, and that means considerably lowering power usage. But that is easier said than done when you consider the statistics.

IDC predicts we will arrive at the mind-boggling figure of 175 zettabytes of data in the digital universe within 4 years. 175 ZB? Consider how long it takes most users to fill a one TB drive. Well, 175 ZB equates to approximately 175 billion TB drives.

The problem is this: how do you reduce IT’s overall power draw in the face of a massive and continual upsurge in data storage? Once 175 ZB of data exists, there is no possibility of containing electrical usage if the vast majority of storage is sitting on hard disk drives (HDDs). The only solution is to cure the industry’s addiction to disk.

Here are the numbers. Data centers alone account for close to 2% of all power consumed in the U.S., about 73 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2020. That is enough to set off the alarm bells. Yet tremendous progress has been made over the past two decades in terms of data center efficiency. When power consumption in data centers soared by 90% between 2000 and 2005 period, the industry acted forcefully. The rate of growth slowed to 24% between 2005 and 2010 and then fell to less than 5% for the entire decade between 2010 and 2020. That’s miraculous when you consider that it was achieved during a period that represented the largest surge in storage growth in history. Smartphones, streaming video, texting, multi-core processors, analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud storage, big data, and other IT innovations demanded the retention of more and more data.

Big strides were made in Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE – the ratio of data center power consumption divided by the power usage). Data centers have largely done a good job in improving the efficiency of their operations. But the one area lagging badly behind is storage efficiency.

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Reducing Carbon Emissions through the Data Tape Ecosystem

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April 20, 2021

By Rich Gadomski, Fujifilm, and Paul Lupino and Tom Trela, Iron Mountain

If there was ever a time for industries and governments around the world to come together and finally take steps to mitigate climate change, now would seem to be it. The return of the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement and the recent U.S. –  China talks on climate change are all positive signs when it comes to moving the needle forward on sustainability initiatives. While fighting COVID-19 took center stage in 2020 and early 2021, our future depends on what we do collectively to reduce our environmental impact now and in the immediate years ahead.

It’s Hard to Deny Global Warming and Climate Change

According to an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, NASA has ranked 2020 as tied with 2016 for the warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880. In a separate assessment, NOAA  (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), which relies on slightly different temperature records and methods, calculated that the global average temperature last year was the second highest to date – just 0.04 degrees Fahrenheit shy of tying the record set in 2016.

On top of the record number of hurricanes and the wildfires out west, the recent Texas deep freeze, which caused widespread power outages and other weather-related tragedies and calamities, seems to be just one more example of climate change. Weather patterns are becoming more unpredictable, which can result in extreme heat, cold and increased intensity of natural disasters.

It is widely acknowledged that global temperatures have been rising especially in the north polar region where we have seen a dramatic shrinking of the polar ice cap. When Arctic air warms, it sets off an atmospheric phenomenon that weakens the polar vortex (the normal jet stream of wind that keeps frigid air to the north) and allows cold air to fall…as far as Texas.

Data Center Energy Consumption and the Advantage of Modern Tape Technology

The key to mitigating the worst impacts of climate change is a reduction in the amount of greenhouse gases produced by humans. Producing energy is extremely resource-intensive, so reducing the amount of energy we consume in all aspects of our lives is of critical importance.

Data centers are significant consumers of energy accounting for as much as 2% of global demand and rising to 8% by some estimates. Data centers can do their part to reduce energy consumption in many ways by becoming more energy-efficient, including simply migrating the vast amounts of still valuable, but rarely accessed, “cold data”.

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Is Online Object Storage Really Immune to Ransomware? Achieving True Object Storage Immutability with Tape

Reading Time: 3 minutes

April 13, 2021

By Chris Kehoe, Head of Infrastructure Engineering, FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc.

Object storage has many benefits. Near infinite capacity combined with good metadata capabilities and low cost have propelled it beyond its initial use cases of archiving and backup. More recently, it is being deployed as an aid to compute processing at the edge, in analytics, machine learning, disaster recovery, and regulatory compliance. However, one recent paper perhaps got a little over-enthusiastic in claiming that disk-based object storage provided an adequate safeguard against the threat of ransomware.

The basic idea proposed is that ransomware protection is achieved by having multiple copies of object data protecting against that kind of intrusion. If the object store suffers ransomware incursion, the backup is there for recovery purposes. The flaw in this logic, however, is that any technology that is online cannot be considered to be immune to ransomware. Unless it is the work of an insider, any attempt at hacking must enter via online resources. Any digital file or asset that is online – whether it stored in a NAS filer, a SAN array, or on object storage – is open to attack.

Keeping multiple copies of object storage is certainly a wise strategy and does offer a certain level of protection. But if those objects are online on disk, a persistent connection exists that can be compromised. Even in cases where spin-down disk is deployed, there still remains an automated electronic connection. As soon as a data request is made, therefore, the data is online and potentially exposed to the nefarious actions of cybercriminals.

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How to Leverage the 3-2-1 Backup Rule and Modern Tape Technology in Backup Applications

Reading Time: 3 minutes

March 31, 2021

By Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism, FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc.

In case you were not aware of it, March 31st is World Backup Day. To be sure, a quick visit to the official website confirms that this day is just a reminder for consumers to backup their PCs and cell phones. According to the website, only 25% of consumers are protecting their precious memories. Surely the helpful recommendations for routine backup doesn’t apply to the storage professionals that keep our enterprise data safe and our websites up and running.  Or does it?

When Disaster Strikes a Data Center

On Wednesday, March 10th, 2021, a fire broke out at the OVHCloud data center in Strasbourg, France. The fire quickly spread out of control and completely destroyed compute, network and storage infrastructure. According to some accounts, as many as 3.6 million websites including government agencies, financial institutions and gaming sites went dark. Others complained that years’ worth of data was permanently lost.

We know that the statistics regarding cost of downtime and the number of companies that don’t ever recover from catastrophic data loss are alarming. The often-cited University of Texas study shows that 94% of companies do not survive, 43% never reopen and 51% close within two years. That’s why the cardinal sin in data protection is not being able to recover data.

OVH reminds us that, however unlikely, data center disasters like an all-consuming fire can still happen. Although these days a more sinister threat continues to loom and tends to grab the headlines and our attention, namely: ransomware.

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New Video Surveillance TCO Tool Makes the Case for LTO Tape Tier in Video Surveillance Operations

Reading Time: 4 minutes

March 25, 2021

By Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism, FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc.

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.

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Air-Gapped Storage Solutions Simply Can’t Be Hacked

Reading Time: 2 minutes

February 23, 2021

The changing landscape of the data protection industry has evolved from primarily backing up data in order to recover from hardware, software, network failures and human errors, to fighting a mounting wave of cybercrime. Over the years, hardware and software have significantly improved their reliability and resiliency levels but security is a people problem, and people are committing the cybercrimes.

Cybercrime has now become the biggest threat to data protection and the stakes are getting higher as anonymous individuals seek to profit from other’s valuable digital data. With a cease-fire in the cybercrime war highly unlikely, we are witnessing a rapid convergence of data protection and cybersecurity to counter rapidly growing and costly cybercrime threats, including ransomware. The growing cybercrime wave has positioned air-gapped storage solutions as a key component of digital data protection – they simply can’t be hacked.

Traditional backup and archival data can be stored locally or in cloud environments. In contrast, a cyber-resilient copy of data must meet additional more stringent requirements. This is where “air gapping” and tape technology are gaining momentum. The rise of cybercrime officially makes the offline copy of data stored on tape more valuable and takes advantage of what is referred to as the tape air gap. The tape air gap is an electronically disconnected or isolated copy of data in a robotic library or tape rack that prevents cybercriminals from attacking a backup, archive or any other data.

Tape cartridges in a robotic tape library or manually accessed tape cartridges in tape racks, are currently the only data center class air-gapped storage solution available.

For more information, check out this Horison Information Strategies White Paper “The Tape Air Gap: Protecting Your Data From Cybercrime.”

 

 

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Tape Secures its Place in the Future of Enterprise Storage

Reading Time: 4 minutes

February 2, 2021

By Drew Robb

I recently read an article in StorageNewsletter entitled “End of Removable Storage Media” and I agreed with many of the points including the demise of removable consumer media such as floppies, zip disks, CDs and DVDs. But I disagree about tape being on the way out like the rest of removable media from the past.

Tape was pronounced dead by Data Domain about 15 years ago when deduplication first entered the scene. Yet tape has not only survived, it thrives, particularly in an enterprise setting. Tape capacity shipments have been rising steadily for more than a decade. A record 114,079 PB of total LTO tape capacity (compressed) shipped in 2019, about four times more than shipped in 2009.

Why is this?

Tape offers removability

In an era when data breaches are escalating, and ransomware wreaks havoc, having an air gap between data and the network has become increasingly important. Whether it is a box of tapes stored by Iron Mountain, or tapes kept on site for use in an automated tape library, physical tapes are easy to isolate from the network. This feature of removability also makes tape easy to scale as you only need to add fresh media for more capacity, not more controllers, disk arrays and supporting hardware. Finally, because of its removability, tape is easily transported by truck or plane between data centers or between clouds and will often be faster and cheaper than using expensive bandwidth.

Tape offers high capacity

The latest generation of LTO tape cartridges can hold 18 TB native and 45 TB compressed per cartridge. To put that in perspective, one cartridge can hold 61.2 years of video recording running 24 hours per day, 4.78 billion human genomes worth of sequence information, or 2.88 years of data transmissions from the Hubble Space Telescope. Even larger cartridges are on the near horizon.

Tape underpins the cloud

The dirty little secret of the big cloud providers is that they rely on tape for high-volume, low-cost storage. These providers harness tape to hold multiple PBs of data, as do a great many large financial institutions. But that doesn’t mean tape is only the province of the few. Anyone with 100 TB or more of data will find value and efficiency with tape. In fact, vendors such as XenData are beginning to offer appliances that make it affordable to use tape for smaller workloads.

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3 Big Takeaways from the Fujifilm and IBM 580TB Tape Demonstration

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January 19, 2021

By Rich Gadomski

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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