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LTO-9 Serves the Needs of Enterprise Environments and Large Organizations like CERN

Reading Time: 3 minutes

November 30, 2021

By Drew Robb, Guest Blogger

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.

You can find out more about CERN’s innovative implementation of tape at the upcoming 12th Annual Fujifilm Global IT Executive Summit in San Diego, June 22-24, 2022.

LTO Specs:

Maximum capacity 45TB compressed (18TB native)
Maximum transfer rate 1,000MB/sec. compressed (400MB/sec. native)
Number of tracks 8,960 (32 track heads in the serpentine format)
Cartridge memory Internal EEPROM with 32kB electromagnetic induction antenna
Tape width 12.65 mm
Tape thickness 5.2 μm
Tape length per cartridge 1,035 m
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LTO-9 Coming to Market at the Right Time with the Right Features to Address the Many Challenges Facing IT Today

Reading Time: 5 minutes

September 9, 2021

By Rich Gadomski, Head of Tape Evangelism

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.

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