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Air-Gapped Storage Solutions Simply Can’t Be Hacked

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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

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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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5 Key Data Tape Storage Trends for 2021

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January 13, 2021

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

The past decade saw the renaissance of data tape technology with dramatic improvements to capacity, reliability, performance, and TCO giving rise to new industry adoptions and functionality. This trend will only continue in 2021 as data storage and archival needs in the post-COVID digital economy demand exactly what tape has to offer. Below are 5 key contributions tape will make to the storage industry in 2021.

Containing the Growing Cost of Storage
One lingering effect of the pandemic will be the need for more cost containment in already budget-strapped IT operations. We are well into the “zettabyte age,” and storing more data with tighter budgets will be more important than ever. Businesses will need to take an intelligent and data-centric approach to storage to make sure the right data is in the right place at the right time. This will mean storage optimization and tiering where high capacity, low-cost tape plays a critical role — especially in active archive environments.

A Best Practice in Fighting Ransomware
One of many negative side effects of COVID-19 has been the increasing activity of ransomware attacks, not only in the healthcare industry which is most vulnerable at this time, but across many industries, everywhere.  Backup and DR vendors are no doubt adding sophisticated new anti-ransomware features to their software that can help mitigate the impact and expedite recovery. But as a last line of defense, removable tape media will increasingly provide air-gap protection in 2021, just in case the bad actors are one step ahead of the good guys.

Compatibility with Object Storage
Object storage is rapidly growing thanks to its S3 compatibility, scalability, relatively low cost and ease of search and access. But even object storage content eventually goes cold, so why keep that content on more expensive, energy-intensive HDD systems? This is where tape will play an increasing role in 2021, freeing up capacity on object storage systems by moving that content to a less expensive tape tier all while maintaining the native object format on tape.

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Fujifilm’s Tape Evangelist on The Future of Tape Storage

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December 18, 2020

In this Executive Q&A, Rich Gadomski, Fujifilm’s Head of Tape Evangelism, discusses the evolution of tape storage and how recent innovations and advancements in tape technology are putting it at center stage.

Explain your role as Tape Evangelist for FUJIFILM Recording Media, U.S.A.

I believe tape technology has a compelling value proposition and a great story to tell. I want to be focused on telling that story and that is my primary role. Of course, it takes a team and we all do our part, but this is what I’m passionate about and want to focus on.

How has the tape storage industry changed over the years?

Tape technology has come a long way since its introduction in the 1950s where we had reel-to-reel tape that could hold just a few megabytes of data. Today we have LTO tape in the market at 12 TB native and enterprise tape at 20TB. Just looking at LTO which came out 20 years ago, it was LTO Gen 1 in 2000 with 100GB of capacity. We expect LTO-9 soon at 18TB so a 180x increase. And just recently we announced a joint demonstration with IBM showing that we can reach up to 580 TB on a single cartridge with our next generation of magnetic particle called Strontium Ferrite. But it’s not just about capacity increases, tape has also made advancements in transfer rate, now faster than HDD, reliability rating, now three or four magnitudes better than HDD and it’s the greenest form of storage consuming far less energy than constantly spinning HDD and this contributes to its lowest total cost of ownership. But today it’s not about tape vs. HDD, in fact, the two technologies complement each other to help customers optimize their data storage.

Why is tape storage still relevant today? What is driving demand for this technology?

I would say first and foremost the incredible amount of data that’s being created in this digital economy. Add to the fact that the value of data is increasing so we want to store more of it for longer periods of time. Yet, IT budgets are flat or barely increasing, so you need a high capacity, highly reliable storage media that is cost-effective for long-term storage and that’s what tape gives you. So tape plays a role in cold archiving, active archiving and yes, backup as well. In fact, tape has renewed interest from customers in the fight against cybercrime and ransomware since customers can easily backup to tape and remove those backups from the network to an isolated and secure location that hackers can’t get to. That’s what we refer to as the tape air gap. Last but not least is energy consumption. Society is rightfully concerned about climate change. Tape consumes 87% less energy than disk and that leads to 87% less CO2 emissions.

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Tape Storage vs. Disk Storage: Getting the Facts Straight about Total Cost of Ownership Calculations

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December 10, 2020

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

Modern tape storage has long been recognized for its low cost. Several analyst white papers have been published that demonstrate the low cost of storing data on tape. For example, “Quantifying the Economic Benefits of LTO-8 Technology” is a white paper that can be found on the LTO.org website. However, occasionally a storage solution provider publishes a white paper that claims to show that their solution is less expensive than tape storage for a particular use case. A good example is a recent white paper published by a disk-based backup-as-a-service provider who will remain unidentified out of respect for what they do. For the purpose of this blog, let’s call them “BaaS.” So let’s dig into their analysis which makes several assumptions that result in higher costs for tape storage than most users would experience.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Process

The first step in developing a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) estimate is the determination of the amount of data to be stored. The BaaS whitepaper separates the amount of primary data, which we wish to protect, from backup data, which is the data physically stored on the backup media. They estimate the amount of backup data residing in the tape library to be two to four times the primary data. This is due to their use of the old daily/ weekly/monthly/ full backup methodology for estimating the amount of backup data. The result is that two to four times the amount of primary data ends up being stored on tape, raising the tape hardware and media costs by two to four times.

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Modern Tape Storage Provides Key to Reducing Data Center Energy Consumption and Carbon Emissions

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Organizations across all industries are concerned about global warming and are actively looking for ways to reduce carbon emissions.  As a result, many companies have decided they must incorporate carbon reductions into their strategies and have announced green initiatives.

Fortunately for IT organizations, there is a significant opportunity to achieve meaningful carbon emissions reductions while lowering operational and capital expenses by changing the way they store their data. Researchers estimate that data centers consume 1.8% of all electricity in the United States. Within the data centers, data storage is a significant portion of total energy usage and disk systems are the primary driver of storage energy consumption.

It is estimated that up to 60% of stored information is seldom accessed, meaning that the expectation of access diminishes after 30 days. By identifying this “cold data” and moving it to modern tape storage, organizations can dramatically reduce energy consumption and associated carbon emissions while also lowering data center capital and operational expenses.

To learn more on this topic, check out this white paper from Brad Johns Consulting, “Reducing Data Center Energy Consumption and Carbon Emissions with Modern Tape Storage.

 

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Tape Storage: New Game, New Rules

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September 23, 2020

Modern tape storage has become the leading strategic and lowest-cost storage solution for massive amounts of archival and unstructured data. This bodes well for future tape growth as archival data is piling up much faster than it is being analyzed. Over the past decade, the magnetic tape industry has successfully re-architected itself delivering compelling technologies and functionality including cartridge capacity increases, vastly improved bit error rates yielding the highest reliability of any storage device, a media life of 30 years or more, and faster data transfer rates than any previous tape or HDD (Hard Disk Drive).

Many of these innovations have resulted from technologies borrowed from the HDD industry and have been used in the development of both LTO (Linear Tape Open) and enterprise tape products. Additional tape functionality including LTFS, RAIT, RAO, TAOS, smart libraries and the Active Archive adds further value to the tape lineup. HDD technology advancement has slowed while progress for tape, SSD (Solid State Disk) and other semiconductor memories is steadily increasing. Fortunately, today’s tape technology is nothing like the tape of the past.

For more information, check out this Horison Information Strategies White Paper “Tape Storage: It’s a New Game With New Rules.”

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Why are Two Thirds of Organizations Failing to Backup and Archive Correctly?

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September 9, 2020

By Rich Gadomski, Tape Evangelist, Fujifilm Recording Media, U.S.A., Inc.

You would think, by now, that backup best practices would have moved into the same category as filling up the tank before a long drive or looking each way before crossing the street. But a new study indicates that most organizations continue to get it fundamentally wrong. How? By continuing to backup long-inactive data that should have been archived instead of remaining in the backup schedule.

The 2020 Active Archive Alliance survey found that 66% of respondents were still using backup systems to store archive data. What’s wrong with that?

  • It greatly lengthens backup windows: Repeatedly backing up unchanging archive data wastes storage resources and adds time to the backup process
  • As data sets grow, a failure to distinguish between backup and archiving becomes increasingly expensive in terms of disk space
  • Even those offloading backups to cheap cloud resources are still running up a large bill over time by unnecessarily backing up cold data
  • Archiving, on the other hand, frees up expensive capacity by moving less frequently used data to more cost-effective storage locations.


Clearing Up Backup Confusions

One of the underlying reasons for this is a confusion between backup and archiving. Backup provides a copy of organizational data for use in recovery from a data loss incident, cyberattack or disaster. These days, it is generally copied onto disk or tape and either retained there or relayed to the cloud. A key point is that backup only copies data, leaving the source data in place. It is also used to restore lost or deleted files rapidly.

Archiving is a different concept entirely. Rather than copying data, it moves data classed as inactive to a more cost-effective tier of storage such as economy disk or tape. This frees up space on higher-tier storage systems such as fast disk or flash. In addition, it shortens the backup window and offers permanent and long-term protection from modification or deletion of data.

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Ransomware Protection Must Include an Air Gap

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July 28, 2020

By Rich Gadomski, Tape Evangelist at Fujifilm Recording Media, U.S.A, Inc.

Ransomware statistics can be frightening! Research studies suggest that over two million ransomware incidents occurred in 2019 with 60% of organizations surveyed experiencing a ransomware attack in the past year. To make matters worse, the cybercriminals have moved up the food chain. Two thirds of those attacked said the incident cost them $100,000 to $500,000. Another 20% said the price tag exceeded half a million. Overall, the losses are measured in billions of dollars per year. And it’s getting worse. Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) reports that about half of all organizations have seen a rise in cyber attacks since the recent upsurge in people working from home.

Understandably, this is a big concern to the FBI. It has issued alerts about the dangers of ransomware. One of its primary recommendations to CEOs is the importance of backup with the following key questions:

“Do you backup all critical information? Are backups stored offline? Have you tested your ability to revert to backups during an incident?”

The key word in that line of questioning is “offline.” Hackers have gotten good at staging their attacks slowly over time. They infiltrate a system, quietly ensuring that backups are infected as well as operational systems. When ready, they encrypt the files and announce to the company that they are locked out of their files until the ransom is paid. Any attempt to recover data from disk or the cloud fails as the backup files are infected, too.

The answer is to make tape part of the 3-2-1 system: Three separate copies of data, stored on at least two different storage media with one copy off-site. This might mean, for example, one copy retained on onsite disk, another in the cloud, and one on tape; or one on onsite disk, one on onsite tape as well as tape copies stored offsite.

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