How Tape Storage is Changing the Game for Data Centers

By 2025, tape transfer rates are predicted to be five times faster than HDDs.

Rich Gadomski is a member of the Tape Storage Council and is Vice President of Marketing at Fujifilm Recording Media, U.S.A., Inc.

Tape continues to raise the bar for the data storage industry. Many new advancements in the tape industry were announced throughout the last year that have expanded tape’s value proposition. These innovative technologies have made significant increases in tape’s capacity and long-term storage capabilities.

Since tape capacity continually grows with the expanding need for data storage, many companies are choosing tape because it is not only the safest means for data protection but also the most affordable. In the last 10 years, LTO tape has increased capacity by 1,400 percent, performance 200 percent, and reliability 9,900 percent.

A report from the Tape Storage Council highlights some of the recent advancements in tape including:

●        IBM announced the TS1155 enterprise tape drive with a native capacity of 15 TB (45 TB compressed).

●        Linear Tape File System (LTFS) partners with OpenStack Swift creating the pathway for a high-latency storage back-end that makes it easier for consumers to transfer bulk information with a Swift data ring.

●        The LTO Ultrium Generation 8 tape drive was announced. The LTO-8 tape drive doubles the native capacity from its previous generation to 12 TB (30 TB compressed). To put this in perspective, the LTO-8 can hold 7,140,000 photos, 8,000 movies, or 2,880,000 songs.

●        Type M media was introduced along with the launch of LTO-8 tape drives. Type M media allows unused LTO-7 tapes to increase storage from 6TB to 9TB, when using LTO-8 drives, initializing the LTO-7 media and using a barcode ending with characters “M8.”

In addition, the LTO Program also released a new LTO technology roadmap, detailing specifications up to 12 generations of LTO tape technology which helps to track the storage for each generation of LTO tapes. Extension of total capacity of data held on one LTO-12 tape cartridge to 480 TB with 2.5x compression – an increase of 32 times the compressed capacity of LTO-7 cartridges. The INSIC indicates the current areal density scaling rate of HDD to be about 16 percent CAGR and tape to be at 33 percent CAGR. This indicates that the current cost advantage of tape systems over HDDs will grow even wider in the future. By 2025, tape transfer rates are predicted to be five times faster than HDDs.

Media manufacturers continue to push the future of tape as well. Recently Sony Corporation, along with IBM Research in Switzerland, demonstrated magnetic tape storage recording areal density at 201Gb/in² which can support the native high-capacity storage of approximately 330TB in a single cartridge. Fujifilm continues to commercialize Barium Ferrite technology for LTO and enterprise tape formats, and has already filed for patents for a new magnetic particle for future generations of tape using Strontium Ferrite (SrFe). Strontium Ferrite will have the potential to store 400 TBs native per cartridge - 67 times more storage capacity than LTO-7.

Tape’s growing cost per gigabyte and total cost of ownership (TCO) advantage compared with other storage mediums make tape the most cost-effective technology for long-term data retention. Today end users can compare the total cost of ownership of data retention using TCO calculators.

The favorable economics of tape for storing archival data are also fueling increased interest in active archive solutions. An active archive is a combined solution providing users with an automated means to store and manage all their archive data by integrating HDDs, SSDs, and tape in the data center or cloud.

The active archive greatly improves tape access time by serving as a HDD or SSD cache buffer for a tape library. The active archive enables a high percentage of accesses to the tape subsystem to be satisfied from SSD or HDDs (cache hit ratio) improving access time to first byte of data.

Not only is tape cost effective, but it is also one of the safest ways to store information. The tape air gap has ignited new interest in backing up data on tape. An air gap means that there is no electronic connection to the data on the removable tape cartridge, thus preventing unauthorized access. Disk systems remain online and are vulnerable to an attack. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that an average of 4,000 daily ransomware attacks have been taking place since Jan. 1, 2016, and it’s now estimated that the global cost of these attacks was nearly $5 billion by the end of 2017.

The role that tape serves in today’s modern data centers is quickly expanding into new markets because of compelling technological advancements, economic benefits, high capacity, security, and extreme reliability. It has become an ideal storage solution for growing industries like big data, cloud storage services, entertainment, hyperscale computing, IoT, and surveillance. It is also serving multiple roles for the enormous hyperscale, internet, and cloud data centers. The steady innovation, compelling value proposition and new architectural developments demonstrate tape is not sitting still and is, in fact, raising the bar.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating.

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