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.
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.
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.
The past 10 years have been marked by explosive data growth and demand for storage. Meanwhile, the tape industry has experienced a renaissance thanks to significant advancements in capacity, reliability, performance, and functionality that have led to new applications and key industry adoption. Here’s a look at some of the key milestones.
In terms of capacity, the decade started for LTO with LTO-5 at 1.5 TB native capacity and culminated most recently with LTO-8 at 12.0 TB and LTO-9 soon to be delivered at 18.0 TB.
Enterprise tape formats started the decade at 1.0 TB native and are currently at 20.0 TB native.
Barium Ferrite magnetic particles became a key enabler for multi-terabyte tapes and were demonstrated by IBM and Fujifilm in 2015 to have the potential to achieve 220 TB on a single tape cartridge. This signaled that tape technology had no fundamental areal density limitations for the foreseeable future.
By the end of the decade, IBM and Fujifilm demonstrated the ability to achieve a record areal density of 317 GBPSI using the next generation of magnetic particles, Strontium Ferrite, with a potential cartridge capacity of 580 TB.
Reliability and Performance
During the decade, tape achieved the highest reliability rating as measured by Bit Error Rate at 1 x 1019, even better than enterprise HDD at 1 x 1016.
Data transfer rates for tape also improved from 140 MB/sec. in 2010 to an impressive 400 MB/sec.
LTFS provided an open tape file system with media partitions for faster “disk-like” access and ease of interchangeability, making LTO a de facto standard in the Media & Entertainment industry.
New Applications and Key Industry Adoption
Storing objects on tape became a reality with object archive software solutions offering S3 compatibility, objects can now move to and from tape libraries in their native object format.
The concept of active archiving grew in popularity with tape as a key component complementing flash, HDD and cloud for cost-effectively maintaining online archives.
Tape was recognized for its ease of removability and portability, providing air gap protection in the escalating war against cybercrime.
Major U.S. hyperscalers began to rely on tape during the decade for both back-up and deep archive applications. In one well-publicized example, Google restored a February 2011 Gmail outage from its tape backups. Microsoft adopted tape for Azure later in the decade. Tape became firmly established as a competitive advantage for these and other hyper scalers based on its scalability, long archival life, lowest TCO, low energy consumption, and air gap security.
With this steady technological advancement over the last decade, tape has been recognized for its complementary value to flash, HDD and cloud in tiered storage strategies for managing data in the zettabyte age.
Migrating from one generation to another generation of tape technology may seem like a difficult task. In practice, though, tape migration is relatively straightforward and provides tremendous ROI thanks to each generation’s increase in performance and capacity.
In this video, George Crump of Storage Switzerland talks to Alan Hall of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about the advantages of migrating to tape.
I just spent a full day at a meeting of the Active Archive Alliance and as I was flying home it occurred to me that it’s time for data storage managers to rise up from the sleepy status quo of buying more disk arrays to address runaway data growth problems. It’s time to wake up and smell the sweet aroma of freshly made modern data tape (sort of like that new car smell if you don’t know).
Why do that you ask? Because best practices and undeniable facts say so. Consider the following:
Data goes through a lifecycle from hot to cold, that is to say from a period of active use to a period of inactivity. This can happen in as little as 30 days or less.
Inactive data should not stay on primary storage devices. It takes up space on expensive storage media, consumes more energy and adds to the backup burden.
What to do? Delete it? You probably can’t get permission to delete it, all data is now potentially valuable with new artificial intelligence (AI) and analytic tools emerging to derive value from that data. But you can move it and stop copying it!
Where do you move it to? Put it in an active archive consisting of low cost disk cache and even lower cost long term storage like a high density automated tape library. To store one petabyte of data for 10 years in a tape library will cost around $220,000 depending on your TCO variables. Alternatively, you could spend $900,000 on HDD and around $1,300,000 for cloud. Need more capacity? Tape libraries easily scale by adding more slots and tapes. You can export full tapes and plug new ones in. Move the full tapes offsite and get the benefit of air gap since the data is physically isolated from other networks. At least you know that data can’t be accessed and held for ransom.
Getting end user access requests for that data all of a sudden? Move it back to disk cache and serve it from there. When done, move it back to the tape library. Tape is super-fast, 360 MB a second and file access is made easier and faster with LTFS.
How to orchestrate all this? Intelligent data management solutions help move data automatically. Leverage metadata and AI tools to analyze files and move them off primary storage if they don’t belong there.
Does this sound like a tiered storage strategy? It is and it’s also known as an active archive. This is a best practice used by the biggest and most advanced data generating companies in the industry. If it works for them, it will work for you too.
There’s a lot of hype in the storage industry with lots of folks looking for new, better ways to do things. But some things are tried and true, like tape, with the benefits of constantly evolving capacities, performance, reliability and long term archivability. So wake up and smell the tape…put your data where it belongs and get on with your day!
For over five decades, CERN has used tape for its archival storage. In this Fujifilm Summit video, Vladimir Bahyl of CERN explains how they increased the capacity of their tape archive by reformatting certain types of tape cartridges at a higher density.
At Storage Visions 2018, held in Santa Clara this past October, I had the opportunity to talk about the future outlook for tape as attendees wanted to know how they were going to store all the data that’s being created. The session I participated in was entitled “Epic Battles with Classic Heros – Flash, HDDs and Tape Slay Data Challenges.” As the title suggests, battling exponential data growth takes more than one storage media type to effectively handle the deluge of data that’s being created (now estimated to be 33 ZB in 2018 and growing to 175 ZB by 2025, according to IDC).
As our session moderator, Jean Bozeman from Hurwitz & Associates pointed out in her introduction, a variety of storage workloads create the need for a spectrum of storage technologies. Certainly the need for speed at the top of the storage pyramid is being addressed by performance HDD and increasingly by ever evolving solid state drives.
The need for longer term storage at scale is the domain of capacity HDD and of course, tape. Managing the data deluge is all about having the right data on the right storage medium at the right time. Not everything can or should be stored on expensive high performance flash. You need high capacity optimized media for long term data retention and that’s where HDD and tape come in to play (often in a user friendly active archive environment).
When it comes to the future of capacity in the domain of HDD, current perpendicular magnetic recording technology has reached ‘super paramagnetic” limitations where increasing areal density to increase capacity is not a viable option. With helium filled HDDs, more platters can fit in the same form factor as air filled HDDs but this has not allowed a significant growth in capacity. New technology concepts such as Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording (HAMR) and Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording (MAMR) are on the horizon but market availability has been delayed. There is also the potential of vacuum sealed HDDs with better operating characteristics than helium that could help HAMR and MAMR HDDs get up to 40 – 50 TB at some point in the future.
But fundamentally, increasing capacity of a storage medium and ultimately reducing its cost is best achieved by increasing areal density. This is where magnetic tape technology really shines as today’s modern tape with per cartridge capacities already as high as 20 TB having very low areal densities compared to HDD.
Therefore, tape has a long runway before facing areal density limits and as a result, future tape roadmaps have the potential to achieve up to 220 TB on a standard form factor cartridge using Barium Ferrite (BaFe) magnetic particles and up to 400 TB using next generation Strontium Ferrite (SrFe). At the same time, both BaFe and SrFe can maintain magnetic signal strength integrity for at least 30 years making them ideal not only for high capacity but for cost effective long term data retention as well.
“No wonder the cloud guys are all using tape now,” exclaimed an attendee in the audience during the Q&A. They certainly also use a lot of flash and a lot of disk too. It is an epic battle and it takes a spectrum of storage technologies to slay the data challenges.
Vice President of Marketing
FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc
Sometimes change can lead to confusion, or at least to a lot of questions. Take changes in the tax laws for example. I won’t get into details, but suffice it to say I feel sorry for tax preparers come 2019!
In the realm of tape storage, we too have had some changes to the traditional roll-out of next-generation LTO tape drives and media. But rather than focus on confusing change, let’s focus on the luxury of having options. That’s exactly what we have in the option offered with the introduction of LTO-8 drives that can use standard LTO-8, LTO-7, or… LTO-7 Type M tape cartridges.
For the first time in the history of LTO technology dating back to 2000, users can now write to the previous generation tape cartridge at a higher density than previously allowed. Specifically, LTO gen 8 drive users can choose the option to write 9.0 TB native at 300 MB per second on a new/unused LTO-7 tape that previously maxed out at 6.0 TB native on LTO-7 drives. Assuming 2.5:1 data compression, 22.5 TB can be stored on a LTO-7 Type M cartridge with transfer speeds up to 750 MB per second. That’s a lot of capacity… and really fast!
Beyond extra capacity, LTO-7 Type M is a good option economically speaking, since there is no price difference between standard LTO-7 media already in the market and LTO-7 Type M media. This means LTO-7 Type M is 33% less on a cost per TB basis than LTO-7 and 45% less than LTO-8 media at current internet reseller prices.
Taking advantage of the LTO-7 Type M option is easy. First, make sure your tape library is equipped with LTO-8 drives and is upgraded to initialize LTO-7 Type M media for 9.0 TB capacity. If necessary, contact your library vendor to confirm this detail or to enable it. For your library to distinguish standard LTO-7 from Type M, you need to use “M8” designated barcode labels as opposed to “L7” designated barcode labels. To verify, you will see the characters“M8” printed to the right of the volser number on the barcode label where you would normally see “L7”.
Finally, like a good drug commercial, there are a few disclaimers to be aware of, but in this case the side-effects don’t sound worse than the disease known as: exponential data growth coupled with shrinking budgets. So here we go:
LTO-7 Type M can’t be initialized in standalone LTO-8 drives, library system required. But once initialized by the library, the Type M tape can be used in a standalone LTO-8 drive (read/write)
Once initialized for 9.0 TB, the Type M cartridge will not be compatible with LTO-7 drives
Type M cartidges will not be read/write compatible with LTO-9 drives
It’s always nice to have the luxury of options especially if that means be able to handle a lot more data at a super attractive price!
In this video, Brad Johns provides the real cost of ownership of your data storage over 10 years and explains why tape is the most affordable option for long-term data storage. Although many companies use a variety of different storage platforms, tape is the most practical and the most affordable for backup and archive.
For one petabyte of raw, non-compressible data, the cost savings versus high capacity disk is about 74% over the course of 10 years; the savings increase to 84% when compared to the cloud. Brad Johns crunched the numbers and tape is undeniably the cheapest option for long-term storage.
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