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It’s Just a Matter of Time, as Storage Demands Rise

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Rich Gadomski
Vice President of Marketing
FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc

I recently returned from a speaking opportunity at the PRISM Conference held in Miami on May 8thand 9th where I spoke on the Role of Tape in Today’s Modern Offsite Storage Center. In addition to holding and protecting valuable data tape cartridges for archive, backup, and disaster recovery applications, offsite vaults also play a crucial role in providing an “air gap” against cyber criminals and their alarming malware and ransomware variants. Because of tape’s powerful value proposition, it provides this functionality particularly well. It’s easily portable, has the lowest total cost of ownership, is the most reliable storage medium today, and has long archival life and high capacity.

The audience, which included many regional data vault service providers from the U.S. and abroad, didn’t have to take my word on the value prop of tape. I backed it up with studies from leading IT research companies and articles from reliable publications such as the Wall Street Journal. I sprinkled in some news about tape usage from folks like Microsoft Azure. Finally, I detailed the bright future tape has based on its ability to continue to increase in areal density which will ensure increasing capacity and cost competitiveness without sacrificing performance, thanks in part to Fujifilm’s Barium Ferrite and Strontium Ferrite magnetic particle technology.

At the end of my presentation, during the Q&A, I got the following response and question: “Tape sounds great, how come we don’t see more tape volume flowing into our vaults?” One reason for this would be the increasing data densities of tape which would reduce unit volumes. Understandably this is not great for the vault service providers, but this is actually a great benefit for end users; they can store more data on fewer units. Another factor to consider is the ever-increasing popularity of cloud storage over say, the past five years. We have seen a move from on-premises, do-it-yourself storage to outsourced cloud services. This is especially true among startups and SMBs and specific verticals where the cloud can provide unique functionality such as compute and file sharing.

But as the world turns ever so slowly, so do market conditions. Now that data storage pros have gotten comfortable with what the cloud can do, they are also starting to understand some of the downsides such as high TCO associated with egress fees and bandwidth. Security concerns might be mounting too in light of escalating cybersecurity breaches.

So at some point, tape will make sense again for many of the folks who tried cloud, considering TCO, budget constraints and the need for air gap. It’s just a matter of time, as long as demand for storage keeps rising based on relentless data growth.  And so long as the hackers don’t quit on the highly profitable multi-trillion dollar business of cybercrime.

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Tape Air Gap Provides Defense Against Cybercrime

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According to Juniper Research, cybercrime is expected to become a $2.1 trillion problem by 2019. Using tape-based, offline storage creates an “air gap” that can prevent hackers from accessing your data. In this video, Fred Moore, president of Horison Information Strategies, explains the benefits of tape storage for data security. 

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Tape Storage Council Releases Annual Report on State of Tape Industry

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Tape isn’t just raising the bar, it is the bar. According to a new Tape Storage Council report, in the last 10 years, LTO tape has increased capacity 1,400%, performance 200%, and reliability 9,900%. In addition to tape’s continual capacity improvements, tape is improving access time and data rate (throughput) with active archive, RAIT, and RAO, and offers the storage industry’s fastest data rates.

Tape is serving multiple roles for the enormous hyper scale, Internet and cloud data centers as tape capacity can easily scale without adding more drives. Check out the new 2018 State of the Tape Industry report featuring current trends, use cases and technology innovations for tape storage: http://tapestorage.org

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Helping MLB Network Simplify Their Massive Content Archive

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Storytelling is a central facet of society that may have changed formats over the years but will never become obsolete. In today’s digital world, broadcasters and television networks focus on creating relatable stories to connect with their audiences, and they can’t do that without a wealth of readily available content.

MLB Network is the source for baseball stories of all kinds, from live games to studio shows and feature programming. Launched on January 1st, 2009, MLB Network is growing fast, reaching more than 70 million households today, delivering the best of America’s national pastime, all the time.

The Challenge: Digital Content Storage and Management

“MLB Network’s goal is to bring baseball to our audience every night with the highest levels of production quality, focus and enthusiasm throughout the year,” said Tab Butler, Director of Post Production and Media Management at MLB Network. “To accomplish this, we need constant access to our archives and current live game content. We need all information from every game securely stored and easily accessible.”

With multiple recordings of every game, along with multiple audio sources, and pregame, post-game and isolated camera feeds, it is not uncommon for MLB Network to record more than 3,000 hours of content per week. That content is then categorized and cataloged for future use, using the Emmy Award-nominated media asset management DIAMOND System. When the baseball season comes to a close, MLB Network continues to deliver baseball news 24/7, with special programming about a team, player or other happenings in the sport. These individual projects require systematic archival that supports precise selection and instant access of specific files. The challenge is how to empower diverse departments to directly access their projects, without heavy IT support.

MLB Network Deployed StrongBox for Project-Based Workflow

As an early adopter, MLB Network deployed a custom-developed StrongBox to manage archived projects in late 2011. StrongBox is a vendor-neutral, fully portable data vault for long-term file retention. Functioning as standard network-attached storage (NAS), StrongBox employs Linear Tape File System (LTFS) media as the principal storage medium to save money and empower a file-system view of all archived content. An internal disk cache enables rapid file access. With drag-and-drop functionality, StrongBox makes accessing archived projects easy for MLB Network, delivering content on-demand to multiple, simultaneous users. Since MLB network is a 24/7 operation, the production staff uses a SAN-based Final Cut Pro (FCP) platform to develop programming that is updated throughout the season with the latest information. When these projects are ready for archival, the video, audio and revision files, along with their metadata, are stored in StrongBox. Having the ability to recall an archived show, and repackage it with current information, utilizing tape as the storage medium, reduces the storage costs for the archived content. “StrongBox has been natural for streamlining this type of project-based storage. Instead of keeping projects on spinning disk, we’re able to offload to StrongBox,” explained Butler. One of Butler’s key initiatives is finding ways to better automate the media management environment, allowing different departments to manage their own archival data instead of relying on his Media Management team to store and retrieve files. With StrongBox, editors have direct access to archived projects in real-time, without having to depend on a Media Management operator to retrieve files.

High-Capacity, Low-Cost LTFS Tape for Proxy

Butler said that for the 2009 baseball season, 25 terabytes of spinning disk storage was required for the video proxy data, and for the 2010 baseball season, 32 terabytes was required. Although this proxy information requires long-term storage, it is accessed very infrequently. Thus, the operational costs for keeping this much data on spinning disk become extremely expensive. Even though it is long-tail content, it cannot be taken offline.

Through the custom-built, DIAMOND System, MLB Network logs and categorizes HD recording by viewing the video using proxy video files, which are recorded in real time. The bulk of recorded HD Video content is stored within an LTO library, and is searched and accessed using DIAMOND and the Grass Valley Aurora systems. Thus, Butler is investigating ways to use tape to further drive down the costs of his long-tail proxy content which is currently on spinning disk.

“If I look down my future roadmap, my proxy environment is going to continue to grow year over year for the lifetime of the archive,” explained Butler. “Getting the proxy on LTO-5 media is much more cost-efficient for long-tail content.” With the introduction of LTFS, tape can be partitioned and indexed on a file level. This brings significant opportunity for media and broadcast companies. For MLB Network, LTFS brings the capability to efficiently maintain an accessible archive at the file level, while eliminating the heat generation, cooling requirements, spinning drives and other operational costs associated with disk storage.

“StrongBox is a very unique product, with flexibility that makes it functional in multiple use-cases for MLB Network,” Butler continued. Currently, the MLB Network video archive consists of 10 to 12 petabytes of stored HD content, and 275 terabytes of proxy content. A migration of that much data would be a significant undertaking. With the ability to scale up to 35 petabytes, StrongBox delivers low-cost, high-capacity storage with high-performance access that could provide a cornerstone in the foundation for MLB Network’s biggest business asset – its programming.

The Bottom Line

MLB Network delivers exciting, engaging baseball stories 24/7, 365 days a year. With a massive content archive that will only continue to grow, Tab Butler knows that LTFS tape is a cost-efficient and scalable way to manage MLB Network’s digital records. While editors constantly juggle multiple projects with demanding deadlines, StrongBox facilitates a project-based workflow, integrating with the editing environment to allow end users more direct access to their archived content. Ultimately, StrongBox helps MLB Network spend more time creating and delivering award-winning baseball stories and less time worrying about how to manage data.


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Lonely in Bedford

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Andy Feather
Sr. Director, Engineering & Technical Services
FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc

Ever hear of the Maytag repairman commercials? It was a role played by actor Jesse White (thank you Google). Because Maytag machines were so reliable, he never got any work and was the loneliest guy in town. Sometimes I wonder if our technical support engineers here at our factory in Bedford, MA suffer the same fate thanks to the reliability of today’s tape technology.

But I do have a tech support story I want to share. Not long ago, I got a call from Brookhaven National Labs out in Long Island, N.Y. They reported that an LTO-6 tape was mechanically malfunctioning and could not be accessed by their drives. They asked if we could we take a look at it, fix it and send it back because this was an important tape containing client data.

Our tech support engineers received the tape by express mail within a day of the complaint. The first step was to analyze the cartridge memory chip data, and it was determined that there were no error messages. The production history was reviewed, and there were no indications of any issues at the time that the cartridge was manufactured. Upon physical inspection it became apparent that the leader pin and clip were dislodged. The cartridge was x-rayed in order to determine if the leader pin and clip were still inside the cartridge. The x-ray results (see photo below) revealed that the leader pin and clip were still intact, but stuck inside the cartridge.

The leader pin had become dislodged but this was not caused by a manufacturing defect. Two possible causes were either mishandling of the cartridge, or there was an issue with one of Brookhaven’s drives which caused the leader pin to not be returned correctly into the leader pin spring. The cartridge memory data showed that data was successfully written multiple times before the issue occurred. Brookhaven was advised of the drive serial number needing investigation for possible issues.

The tech support engineers then proceeded to remove the barcode label and unscrew the cartridge in order to access the dislodged leader pin. The leader pin was properly repositioned and clamped. The barcode label was reprinted and reapplied. The cartridge was returned to Brookhaven the next day via express service. All of this was much to Brookhaven’s relief, and the client’s data was restored without much delay.

Brookhaven shared with us that they have written more than 100 PB of data on LTO tape. Regarding LTO-6 alone, they have 21,235 tapes in their environment with a total of 1,644,440 mounts. Only one tape had the problem shared above, and it was fixed in a day.

How can our “Maytag team” help you? We are here to support you on any aspect of tape media operation and performance. Beyond media, we can refer you to the right supporting hardware and software vendors or 3rd party service providers. Just let us know!

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The Dternity NAS Helps the Fighting Irish Build a Better Archive

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The University of Notre Dame, based in South Bend, Indiana is a world class university with students that represent all 50 states and over 100 countries. Rigorous academics, NCAA Division I athletics, and numerous events and activities create an environment in which students are ignited with a passion to learn and to live to their fullest capacity.

Consistently ranked in the Top 25 institutions of higher learning by US News & World Report, Notre Dame has over 10,000 students, 4 colleges, 67 undergraduate programs, more than 50 graduate programs, and is home to the famous Fighting Irish Football team that draws fans from all around the world.

The Challenge

“The mission of the Office of IT is to serve as the trusted IT partner to all the Faculty, Staff and Students” says Mike Anderson, Storage Engineer at the University of Notre Dame. “It can be very difficult to satisfy their increasing demands for storage”. Historically IT was responsible for providing enterprise class storage for students, faculty and staff. This was primarily for user accounts, database and email. Large file storage was discouraged and requests for such storage were often denied. “Sometimes we would get requests from a department to store 100 TB or more” says Mike Anderson. “We simply did not have a solution that could accommodate a large archive at that point”.

“We needed an affordable storage solution that could scale to beyond a petabyte and provide data protection to all archived content”
– Mike Anderson, Storage Engineer at the University of Notre Dame

By 2014 it was clear to IT that something had to change. Requests for large file storage was growing and so was the need to archive them. Primary sources of this big data were the Athletics Department that was using more and more cameras to film all their games. Another source was the ever growing University Archives that was making an official effort to digitize and preserve historical data for future use. “We needed an affordable storage solution that could scale to beyond a petabyte and provide data protection to all archived content” said Mike Anderson.

The Solution

“After evaluating many solutions we decided to go with the Dternity NAS and Media Cloud replication service”. The solution is built to fit into existing environments and deliver the simplicity of networks shares along with the superior economics of tape. Notre Dame’s IT department was able to re-purpose their existing tape library as a scale-out NAS using the Dternity appliance.

The athletics department and the university archives could all be given their own CIFS shares that plugged right into their workflows. The easy scalability quickly meets the ever-growing demand for capacity. Data recovery is automatically provided through replication to the Dternity Media Cloud. The Media Cloud is an offsite storage service that store two additional copies of Notre Dame’s content, giving them a total of 3 copies across two geographic locations.

As a starting configuration, Notre Dame built an archive designed to hold at least 750 TB using the Dternity NAS paired with a Spectra Logic LTO-6 library with replication to the Dternity Media Cloud service for added offsite protection.

The Benefits

To date, the IT team has seen an overall decrease in administrative time associated with backing up and archiving research data. Dternity simplifies data protection and disaster recovery by managing multiple file copies without requiring an additional backup application. There has been immediate cost savings already, and as the amount of data in the Dternity grows, the cost savings grows with it. It is significantly cheaper to keep archive data on tape as opposed to disk. Not to mention the security benefits now that less of the information that is supposed to be in the archive is being stored by users on flash drives and other user solutions. “Capacity and scalability were obviously very important to us, but Dternity provided so much more”, said Anderson. “Our customers are happy that their data is automatically copied offsite, and I never have to worry because our archive is fully protected for decades to come”. “The best thing though is how easily automated Dternity is and that our team for the most part never has to touch tape”.


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