I had the opportunity to attend in person and present on the latest in tape technology at the 16th Annual Flash Memory Summit (FMS) held in Santa Clara last week. That’s right, tape technology at a flash conference. My friends from the DNA Data Storage Alliance were there presenting too. So what gives?
Archival data may not require high performance computing, but it does need to stay accessible for productivity, legal, business value, analytics, and compliance. IT must secure that data against ransomware and other types of cyberattacks. And IT needs to do all this at reasonable costs, even given extraordinary projected data growth.
Active archiving technology is constantly evolving as marketplace demand increases. We recently released our 2022 Report: The Active Archiving Ecosystem: Building a Flexible Archival Repository Your Way, highlighting the increased demand for new data management strategies and the benefits and innovations of active archive solutions.
Top innovations within active archiving include Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML), sustainability, analytics, and compliance.
In this executive Q & A, Tom Nakatani, president of FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc. (FRMU) discusses how tape technology plays a vital role in the world of data storage now and in the future.
Q1) Tell us a bit about yourself, your career at Fujifilm and how you ended up as president of FRMU?
I don’t like to age myself, but I have been in the Recording Media Business for 25 years since I joined Fujifilm in 1997. I worked primarily in international sales and marketing, responsible for key customers and partners. I also spent about six years at the European headquarters in Germany. Most recently I was assigned as VP of Sales and Marketing in the U.S. in September of 2020 before being appointed president of FRMU as of July 1st of this year. As president, I am responsible for the sales and profitability of this division including our Bedford manufacturing facility. I’m pleased to say Bedford is a world class operation with many cutting edge technologies and sustainability initiatives in place. It’s also the world’s largest LTO manufacturing facility, producing the greenest form of storage. But our biggest asset is our team of employees across the organization, from coast to coast, dedicated to exceptional customer satisfaction.
Q2) What are some of the biggest challenges facing the data storage industry today?
I think the biggest challenge starts with the ongoing and escalating digital transformation that is generating more data than we ever could have imagined even ten years ago. We are now firmly in the zettabyte age where we have a tendency to keep everything indefinitely and we’re afraid to delete anything. And rightfully so, as the value of data has increased and in many ways it is the new currency in this digital economy.
But the question is, how can we continue to manage ever increasing volumes of data that are growing exponentially? How can the industry afford it from a TCO perspective and from an energy consumption perspective? The IT industry needs to reduce its impact on global warming and climate change. And how do we protect the data from theft or ransomware? The IT industry needs a cost-effective way to prevent unauthorized access by securing data in offline, offsite locations.
These are significant challenges but tape solutions are part of the answer. It simply requires a strategic approach to data management and getting the right data in the right place at the right time. Why keep inactive data on 24/7 spinning disk that costs a lot and consumes a lot of energy? Why not move it to modern automated tape systems to reduce cost and CO2 footprint? This will free up HDD space for new, active data! Why not make a low cost copy of the data on tape and send it offsite for cyber security reasons? These solutions are available and are being practiced by the most technologically advanced and data intensive customers in the world today including the major hyperscalers.
Q3) How is FRMU innovating to address these challenges?
Together with our global Recording Media colleagues around the world we continue to bring innovative new products and solutions to market. Our tape technology provides the world’s leading companies with high-capacity data storage solutions to help them manage the increasing volumes of valuable data that we just discussed. Our recent release of LTO-9 with 18 TB native and up to 45 TB of compressed capacity is a good example. According to recent studies by industry experts, LTO-9 is even more energy efficient than previous generations of LTO and when compared to HDD can reduce CO2e by more than 95%. In addition, our Bedford facility has come up with innovative ways to custom package our tape products according to specific customer requirements for ease of use and sustainability goals. Our engineering teams have developed diagnostic tools to maximize performance of tape systems for some of our largest customers. We are also very excited about the innovation we are bringing to the object storage market. Our S3 compatible Object Archive software enables access to low cost tape storage with high reliability and security for long term archiving and preservation of valuable but low access data sets.
Q4) What role do you think tape will play in the future?
We believe organizations and enterprises of all kinds will continue to rely on our products for long-term, reliable, secure, eco-friendly and cost-effective data protection and retention. This includes backup for cybersecurity and ransomware protection to active archive for infrequently accessed data to cold archive for so much of the data that is rarely accessed but still has value and can’t be deleted. We have the fundamental building blocks in place to continue increasing areal density and capacity of magnetic linear tape well into the future based on magnetic particle science such as Barium Ferrite, Strontium Ferrite and even Epsilon Ferrite in the more distant future. Our most recent technology demo with IBM showed the potential for 580 TB of native capacity on a single LTO sized cartridge. That’s a lot of data but it’s what will eventually be needed to store and protect data beyond the zettabyte age in an economical and energy efficient manner. I’m sure that advancements will also continue in flash and HDD or new technologies like DNA data storage will come along. But I believe all these technologies will be needed and will complement each other.
After a two year hiatus due to COVID, Fujifilm’s 12th Annual Global IT Executive Summit took place last week in beautiful, warm and sunny San Diego. This year’s Summit theme was “Optimizing storage in the post-Covid, zettabyte age” where organizations have to do more with fewer resources while the value, volumes and retention periods of data continue to increase unabated. It was so good to once again interact face-to-face with members of the storage industry family including around a hundred or so customers, vendors, industry analysts, and storage industry experts during the 3 day event.
About The Summit For those not familiar with the Summit, it is an educational conference featuring presentations from industry experts, analysts, vendors and end users about the latest trends, best practices and future developments in data management and storage. A concluding speaker panel with Q & A and peer-to-peer networking opportunities throughout the agenda truly make the Summit a unique storage industry event.
Key End User and Vendor Presentations Similar to past Summits (we last convened in San Francisco in October of 2019) we enjoyed presentations from key end users including AWS, CERN, Meta/Facebook and Microsoft Azure. These end users are on the leading edge of innovation and in many ways are pioneering a path forward in the effective management of vast volumes of data growing exponentially every year.
From the vendor community, we were treated to the latest updates and soon to be unveiled products and solutions from Cloudian, IBM, Quantum, Spectra Logic, Twist Bioscience (DNA data storage) and Western Digital (HDD). The tape vendors shined a light on the continuing innovations in tape solutions including improvements in ease-of-use and maintenance of automated tape libraries as reviewed by Quantum. New tape applications abound from object storage on tape in support of hybrid cloud strategies as explained by Cloudian and Spectra, to the advantages of sustainable tape storage presented by IBM. It’s not a question of if, but when organizations will need to seriously address carbon emissions related to storage devices. After all: “no planet, no need for storage” quipped one attendee. Also included in the tape application discussions were the massive cold data archiving operations as presented by CERN and the hyper scale cloud service providers.
Finally from the world of tape, was a chilling, harrowing tale of a real life ransomware attack experienced by Spectra Logic and how their own tape products contributed to the safe protection of their data with the simple principal of a tape air gap.
Need for Archival Storage We also heard about the latest updates in the progress of DNA data storage from Twist Bioscience and where the world of HDD is going from Western Digital. We are now firmly in the zettabyte age with an expected 11 zettabytes of persistent data to be stored by 2025. Just one zettabyte would require 55 million 18TB HDDs or 55 million LTO-9 tapes. As an industry we are going to need a lot of archival storage! That includes future technologies like DNA, advanced HDDs, optical discs, and of course, highly advanced modern tape solutions. Tape will continue to deliver the lowest TCO, lowest energy consumption and excellent cybersecurity. All the while tape is supported by a roadmap with increasing cartridge capacities to meet market demand as it unfolds. Certainly, the cloud service providers will leverage all of these storage media at some point as they fine tune their SLAs and prices for serving hot data to cold archival data.
Fred Moore, Horison Information Strategies
Analysts Share Future Vision From the analyst community, we were treated to a visionary storage industry outlook from Fred Moore, president of Horison Information Strategies who shared the fact that 80% of all data quickly becomes archival and is best maintained in the lower tiers of his famed storage pyramid as an active archive or cold archive. Following Fred was important data from Brad Johns Consulting that showed the 18X sustainability advantage of eco-friendly tape systems compared to energy intensive HDDs. While we need both technologies, and they are indeed complementary, a tremendous opportunity exists for the storage industry to reduce carbon emissions by simply moving cold, inactive data from HDD to tape systems.
Rounding out the analyst presentations was Philippe Nicolas of Coldago Research with some valuable insights into end user storage requirements and preferences in both the U.S. and Europe.
Innovation from an Industry Expert From the realm of storage industry experts, we had a compelling talk from Jay Bartlett of Cozaint. With his expertise in the video surveillance market, Jay shared how the boom in video surveillance applications is becoming unsustainable from a retention of content perspective. It will become increasingly cost prohibitive to retain high definition video surveillance footage on defacto-standard HDD storage solutions. Jay revealed a breakthrough allowing for the seamless integration of tier 2 LTO tape with a cost savings benefit of 50%! No longer will we need to rely on grainy, compromised video evidence.
Final Thoughts The Summit wrapped up with a speaker panel moderated by IT writer and analyst, Philippe Nicolas. One big take away from this session was that while innovation is happening, it will need to continue in the future if we are to effectively store the zettabytes to come. Innovation means investment in R&D and production of new solutions, perhaps even hybrid models of existing technologies. That investment can’t come from the vendors alone and the hyper scalers will need to have some skin in the game.
In conclusion, the Summit was long overdue. The storage eco-system is a family from end users to vendors, to analysts and experts. As a family we learn from each other and help each other. That’s what families do. Fujifilm was pleased to bring the family together from around the globe under one roof, for frank and open discussion that will help solve the challenges we and our society are facing.
By Guest Blogger Peter Faulhaber, former president and CEO, FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc.
The Hyperscale Data Center (HSDC) secondary storage market is quickly emerging, requiring advanced solutions for petascale and exascale storage systems, not currently available. According to HORISON Information Strategies, HSDCs currently use around 3% of the world’s electrical energy. Due to the massive energy footprint of HSDCs, climate protection measures have become increasingly important in recent years, with cloud computing offering the greatest advantages for sustainable operation by reducing the energy and carbon footprint over the entire data life cycle.
The slowing rate of HDD and tape technology development roadmaps in recent years, along with HDD and tape storage supplier consolidations are particularly concerning trends to HSDCs. Neither HDD nor tape technology is currently positioned by itself to effectively meet the enormous HSDC storage requirements that future performance and capacity demands. High technical asset specificity requires significant R&D investment, yet have limited ROI potential outside of hyperscalers.
HSDCs manage over 60% of the world’s data today with a CAGR of 35 – 40%, with a growing need for cost-effective secondary storage that still meets certain performance thresholds.
The vendors and manufacturers are dis-incentivized to invest in novel technology; the risk reward is not high enough, while HSDCs are leveraging their buying and bargaining power. Manufacturers need to invest hundreds of millions to bring innovative solutions to market in a long development cycle, without a commitment from the HSDC market.
As a result, the secondary storage market is left with incremental investments in existing technologies and moves slowly.
The conditions are set for a widening gap between customer demands and product solutions in the secondary storage market.
The current “vendor-driven” strategy will not keep pace with HSDC requirements for secondary storage as such offerings fall far behind HSDC curves. Photonics, DNA, glass, and holographic experiments are attempting to address the market, and have been in labs for decades, but most have drawbacks, and none are on the near-term horizon for customer deployment. These initiatives show that a change is needed to get ahead of the demand curve.
However, the opportunity also exists to mitigate this risk by bringing the interested parties together to share the risk reward paradigm. HSDCs need a quantum leap, which only comes with significant investment, best shared by the interested parties.
The Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC) addressed the concept of vertical market failure in September 2021 in its published article “New Trajectories for Memory and Storage,” stating, “The prospect of vertical market failure can be mitigated by private sector market participants through risk-share agreements between customers and suppliers, as well as increased vertical integration.”
Without change, current technologies will fall far behind HSDC demand curves, and the current vendor-driven trajectory increases the likelihood of un-met demand and stagnation of growth for all involved.
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.
I had the opportunity to present at AFCOM’s Data Center World (DCW) exhibit and conference in Austin, Texas yesterday. The first thing I have to share about this experience is how surreal it was to get back on an airplane! It was my first trip since COVID started two years ago with many zoom presentations and virtual conferences since then. But not much has changed about air travel. The seating is still cramped, the flight was packed full, and my dog gets more snacks in a four hour period than I did on my four hour flight!
Committed to Sustainability Sustainability is a hot topic these days and was one of the main themes of this year’s DCW. It was also the topic I presented on, specifically “How to Avoid CO2 Emissions in Long Term Storage with Modern Data Tape Technology.” The good news is that the DCW attendees that I met and listened to in other sessions 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.
Key Questions about Storage At the outset of my presentation, I asked for a show of hands for those directly involved in data storage. I was not surprised to confirm my suspicion that there would be few if any attendees to raise a hand, since AFCOM’s DCW is more about facilities management than storage management. But I was also glad to see this because we need everyone to be advocates for any possible sustainability improvements in IT operations. So I asked my audience to lean on their colleagues in storage and pose two simple questions to them: “If data has gone cold and is infrequently accessed, why are we keeping it on energy intensive tiers of storage like constantly spinning and heat producing HDD arrays? Why not move it to eco-friendly tape?” The attendees in my session admitted they can feel the power drain and heat being produced by endless disk arrays in their data centers.
Climate Change and Global Warming I began my presentation by setting the stage on global warming from the forest fires in 2020, to the Texas deep freeze in early 2021, to the fact that July of 2021 was the hottest month ever on earth. Add to this the dire reports from the U.N. in late 2021 and early 2022. All this has led to changing consumer sentiment demanding that governments do more. Thankfully they are. Corporate attitudes are also changing from resistance to action on climate and we will be seeing more CSOs (Chief Sustainability Officers) being appointed and implementing change top down. Even Wall Street and the SEC are getting in on the act, demanding reporting and disclosures on corporate sustainability initiatives.
Energy Intensive IT Industry Next, I confirmed what we all know, that the IT industry is energy intensive and its demand for energy is rapidly increasing. The demand curve for energy looks similar to the demand curve for data storage. Driven by digital transformation, IDC expects persistent data that needs to be stored to grow from 2.0 ZB in 2016 to more than 11.0 ZB in 2025, a CAGR of 27%. Suffice it to say no one in the audience really understood what a zettabyte was or that just one zettabyte was equal to the capacity of 55 million LTO-9 data cartridges or 55 million 18.0 TB HDDs. That’s a lot of storage requirement for one zettabyte, let alone 11.0 zettabytes in 2025. We are going to need a lot of flash, disk and tape to handle that kind of volume!
Renewable Energy plus Conservation Next came the conversation about renewables and how Greenpeace has done a great job advocating for more use of renewables in data centers, especially the cloud hyperscalers. But from the looks of progress being made on this front, renewable sources of energy likely can’t come on line fast enough or cheaply enough, or in sufficient volume to satisfy the energy needs of the massive data center industry. While Fujifilm is a big fan of renewables (we use it ourselves for our LTO plant in Boston) what’s really needed is a combination of renewables and energy conservation. How about turning off those lights and HDDs before leaving the office each night!
The Data Life Cycle When it comes to conserving energy in data storage, one needs to understand a few simple principles related to the “data lifecycle.” Data quickly goes cold and access frequency drops off dramatically after 30, 60 or 90 days. At the same time, data retention periods are getting longer, sometimes reaching indefinite time periods. This is where data tiering saves the day as cold data can move from expensive, energy intensive tiers of storage to economy, eco-friendly tiers like modern data tape.
Advantages of Eco-Friendly Tape I then shared the research findings from Brad Johns Consulting in his two white papers where tape consumes 87% less energy and produces 87% less CO2 than equivalent amounts of HDD storage. When analyzed over the total product lifecycle from procurement of raw materials to production to distribution to usage and finally disposal, tape produces 95% less CO2 than HDD and produces 80% less e-waste. I also shared the results of an IDC study that shows migrating more cold data from tape to HDD could result in an avoidance of 664 million metric tons of CO2 on a global basis by 2030. That’s the CO2 equivalent of 144 million automobiles being taken off the road for a full year! I also referenced research by IBM showing a side by side compare of TS4500 tape library and Bryce Canyon HDD where the IBM gear produced 80% less CO2 over a ten year period than the Bryce Canyon system. To round things out, I shared the end user perspective from an executive roundtable where Microsoft Azure stated:
“When you take the material savings and power savings, tape actually does offer quite a bit of advantage compared to other technologies that are on the market today.”
Tape remains the lowest cost storage media on a $/GB basis
Tape storage supports air gap ransomware
Tape can reliably store data for long periods with an excellent bit error rate
Tape technology has room to grow in areal density and therefore capacity, and has a well-defined roadmap
I concluded by saying that data growth is here to stay and the volumes of valuable data are getting enormous. What the industry needs to do in support of strategic data storage management and sustainability objectives is this:
“Get the right data, in the right place, at the right time, at the right cost, and…at the right energy consumption level.”
I think the attendees got the message and now see modern tape storage as part of the carbon reduction answer for the data centers of today and tomorrow. It was well worth the snack deprived four hour flight!
As I started to write this blog on recent ransomware observations, an email message popped up on my PC from our IT department advising of additional and more stringent security enhancements taking place almost immediately to toughen my company’s cybersecurity and increase our protection against current and emerging threats. A sign of these cybercrime times, indeed!
Ransomware Trending According to a February 2022 Alert from CISA (Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency), 2021 trends showed an increasing threat of ransomware to organizations globally with tactics and techniques continuing to evolve in technological sophistication. So-called “big game” organizations like Colonial Pipeline, Kronos, JBS, Kaseya, and SolarWinds made the ransomware headlines over the past year or so. But according to the CISA Alert, by mid-2021, many ransomware threat actors, under pressure from U.S. authorities, turned their attention toward mid-sized victims to reduce the scrutiny and disruption caused by said authorities.
In a recent Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) study, 64% of respondents said their organization had paid a ransom to regain access to data, applications, or systems. These findings are supported by the latest Threat Landscape report from the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity. It highlighted a 150% rise in ransomware in 2021 compared to 2020. The agency expects that trend to continue, and even accelerate in 2022.
But these numbers hide the stark reality of the ransomware scourge. Gangs like DarkSide, REvil, and BlackMatter are terrorizing organizations with ransomware – and they are getting smarter and more organized. They have moved beyond the basic ploy of infecting files, locking users out of their data, and demanding a fee. They still want money. But they also endanger reputations by exposing attacks, blackmailing companies by threatening to reveal corporate or personal dirty laundry, and selling intellectual property (IP) to competitors.
As a result, cybersecurity spending has become a priority in most organizations. According to ESG, 69% of organizations plan to spend more on cybersecurity in 2022 than in the previous year, while 68% of senior IT decision-makers identify ransomware as one of their organization’s top 5 business priorities. Such is the fear factor that organizations are now treating cybersecurity ahead of other organizational imperatives such as the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), digital transformation, and application development.
New Federal Mandate and the SEC Takes Action On March 15th, in an effort to thwart cyberattacks from foreign spies and criminal hacking groups, President Biden signed into law a requirement for many critical-infrastructure companies to report to the government when they have been hacked. This way, authorities can better understand the scope of the problem and take appropriate action.
It’s also no wonder that the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) is taking action. On March 9th, the SEC voted 3 to 1 to propose reporting and disclosures related to cybercrime incidents and preparedness. In a nutshell, the SEC will be asking publicly traded companies:
To disclose material cybersecurity incidents
To disclose its policies and procedures to identify and manage cybersecurity risks
To disclose management’s role and expertise in managing cybersecurity risks
To disclose the board of director’s oversight role
Specifically, the SEC will want to know:
Whether a company undertakes activities to prevent, detect and minimize the effects of cybersecurity incidents
Whether it has business continuity, contingency, and recovery plans in the event of a cybersecurity incident
Whether the entire board, certain board members, or a board committee is responsible for the oversight of cybersecurity risks
Whether and how the board or board committee considers cybersecurity risks as part of its business strategy, risk management, and financial oversight
Holding publicly traded companies and their boards accountable for best practices in combating ransomware is a big step in the right direction and will no doubt free up the required budgets and resources.
Lowering the Fear Factor Cybersecurity is already a top spending priority for 2022 and with SEC regulations looming, will likely continue to be a priority for quite some time. Companies are busy beefing up the tools and resources needed to thwart ransomware. They are buying intrusion response tools and services, extended or managed detection and response suites, security information and event management platforms, antivirus, anti-malware, next-generation firewalls, and more, including cybercrime insurance policies.
What may be missing in the spending frenzy, however, are some fundamental basics that can certainly lower the fear factor. Backup tools are an essential ingredient in being able to swiftly recover from ransomware or other attacks. Similarly, thorough and timely patch management greatly lowers the risk of hackers finding a way into the enterprise via an unpatched vulnerability.
Another smart purchase is software that scans data and backups to ensure that no ransomware or malware is hidden inside. It is not uncommon for a ransomware victim to conduct a restore and find that its backup files have also been corrupted by malware. Cleansing data that is ready to be backed up has become critical. These are some of the fundamental basics that need to be in place in the fight against ransomware. Organizations that neglect them suffer far more from breaches than those that take care of them efficiently.
Adding an Air Gap Another fundamental basic is the elegantly simple air gap. When data is stored in the cloud, on disk, or in a backup appliance, it remains connected to the network. This leaves it vulnerable to unauthorized access and infection from bad actors. An air gap is essentially a physical gap between data and the network. It disconnects backed up or archived data from the Internet.
Such a gap commonly exists by partitioning in, or removing tapes from, an automated tape library and either storing them on a shelf or sending them to a secure external service provider. If that data is properly scanned prior to being backed up or archived to ensure it is free of infection, it offers certainty that a corruption-free copy of data exists. If a ransomware attack occurs, the organization can confidently fall back on a reliable copy of its data – and avoid any ransom demands.
Effectively Combatting Ransomware There is no silver security bullet that will 100% guarantee freedom from ransomware. It is truly a multi-faceted strategy. Implementation of best-of-breed security tools is certainly necessary. But they must be supported by the steadfast application of backup and patching best practices and the addition of a tape-based air gap.
CISA, the FBI, and cybersecurity insurance companies all recommend offline, offsite, air-gapped copies of data. This can be achieved cost-effectively with today’s removable, and highly portable modern tape technology. The boards of publicly traded companies will likely want to do whatever it takes to demonstrate compliance with best practices to meet the SEC requirements. This should include air-gapped tape as part of a prudent and comprehensive strategy. A best practice in these cybercrime times, indeed!
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