Tuesday Nov 22, 2011

Screwed Up Again, Did Ya?

Your turn to wear the Cantaloupe Cap of Shame? Here's how to keep it from happening again:

  1. Figure out what data you need to archive
  2. Create a solid archive someplace safer than your iphone
  3. Get wicked fast at recovering your system.

Jesse Butler explains how to do all three for a system running Oracle Solaris 11:

How to Recover an Oracle Solaris 11 System

- Rick


Tuesday Oct 18, 2011

Solving the Tape Storage Space Problem

Because I came of age professionally in the shorts-and-tshirt smarter-than-you culture of Silicon Valley, I always assumed tape storage was used only by retired British spies with names such as Baratheon and Brewster and Cameron who lived in dank mansions on the rocky coast of Scotland and still dressed in tweed jackets for dinner. They spent their days engrossed in the struggle to keep their Dunhill pipes lit and their hair piece in place against fury of the North Wind. Every few months a carrier pigeon would arrive from MI5, and Baratheon or Brewster or Cameron would slowly descend the stairs to a back room. A week later he would return with a name written in code, and hand it to a man in a dripping wetsuit and spear gun who would jump off the cliff without looking and swim it back to a submarine waiting off the coast.

Turns out I was behind the times. In fact, tape for archiving has several advantages that make it economically feasible in today's digital pack-rat economy. Such as durability. And much, much lower power consumption. You can read about them in this paper by Horison information strategies:

Tape: The Digital Curator of the Information Age (registration required)

If you're a storage admin or IT manager considering tape, there's another paper that may interest you more. Published on OTN in July, it describes very clearly the limitations of data that is written in a stream to tape, and how Oracle technologies overcome them. For instance, once you write a block of data to a stream of tape, that particular bit of data not only becomes inefficient to target for access, but updates to the data become clumsy and cumbersome. And as tape cartridges grow to store a terabyte of data, the problem becomes even more pronounced.

Oracle's StorageTek In-Drive Reclaim Accelerator avoids this problem by simply breaking up the serial data on a tape into smaller, more manageable chunks that are grouped together and managed as logical volumes. Find out how in this well-written white paper:

How it Works: StorageTek Reclaim Accelerator

For more information about Oracle tape drive products, visit OTN's Tape Storage product page.

- Rick

Monday Feb 21, 2011

Red Tape, Part II


As I wrote last week, we recently announced the StorageTek T10000C Tape Drive, and along with it we released a number of related papers. I've been associated with publishing best practices papers for over a decade and it seems like there is no topic with less glamor for the writer – yet more importance for the reader – than the combined topics of backup/archive and restore/retrieve. The challenge has grown exponentially with the growth of disk storage. I remember the first time we sold a terabyte of storage: it was a room full of (big, heat-generating/power-consuming) 250 MB drives, costing millions of dollars. Now, just my home configuration consists of roughly 6 terabytes of disk.

How do you back up all of that storage? Tape: really fast tape. And, lots of it. This creates a whole variety of very interesting challenges today, elevating the topic to – at the very least – glamorous, but I think it qualifies as being downright hot! Fascinating areas include optimizing retrieving information from a vast achive of tape units, making sure that when you have backed up onto tape you can be sure it was done so without errors, and then there is the whole challenge of providing security. We have a paper for that!

Let's start off with the challenge of finding information on a serial, as opposed to random access, device. It can be done with brute force, and there are expensive solutions to assist, but the T10000C has a built in accelerator that relieves your system from the overhead. Learn how to use it by reading the concise Using Oracle's StorageTek Search Accelerator, by Oracle engineer Dwayne Edling.

Consider: you have invested big bucks to archive your priceless information onto potentially thousands of tapes. Of course, the latest tape drives all verify using ECC and CRC. However, these do not protect data that is being moved outside the storage device, resulting in a chance for data corruption as it is migrated across the storage landscape. The T10000C addresses this one step further by validating CRC check-sums generated at the host using Oracle's StorageTek Data Integrity Validation Solution (DIV). The brief article StorageTek Data Integrity Validation for the StorageTek T10000C Tape Drive, by the prolific Dwayne Edling, explains this problem in detail and presents some of the details of DIV.

Finally,we don't think twice about encrypting sensitive data on disks – what about on tape? One important aspect of enterprise security is the physical aspect: if someone stole the compact tape media, they could uncover all of your darkest secrets. The Oracle Key Manager (OKM) working with the Sun Crypto Accelerator 6000 provides a clean and highly efficient solution. You can read about this powerful combination in Oracle Key Manager Version 2.x Security and Authentication White Paper.

I have to be honest: I had never thought of Tape as a hot topic before. My bad!

- Kemer

Monday Feb 07, 2011

No Red Tape Here, Part I.

Old Tape DriveSome of us remember the good old days of computer tape. For example, I remember that the write protect ring on the back of the 6250 tape reels had a perfect balance: grasping the little tab and flinging it at the wall, the ring bounced back to be caught without leaving a mark on the lab. We did this as we waited for long compiles to finish and found other creative amusements with this simple component; I am old enough to escape retribution from my supervisors in making this admission, as they are long retired. But, I digress.

Tape as a backup medium – although in a much more sophisticated form – remains a staple of large enterprise backup. Last week we had a big announcement of Oracle's StorageTek T1000C Tape Drive, which offers 5 TB native uncompressed storage and a data transfer rated at nearly ¼ gigabyte per second. (To keep things in perspective, the 6250 stored 140 MB; I don't remember how slow it was, but it was well under 1 megabyte per second...) As a result of this announcement, we have released a number of technical papers that I thought I would discuss in a couple of blogs.

First of all, in thinking about speed, you won't want to miss Evaluating Tape Drive Performance White Paper, by Oracle engineer Dwayne Edling. Dwayne opens the paper by discussing the three components that limit tape speed:

  1. The speed that the storage application sends data to, or processes data from, the drive.
  2. The speed of the host interface between the drive and the application.
  3. The speed that the tape drive writes or reads data at the head/media interface.

6250 TapeHe then goes on to test the T1000C Tape Drive under a variety of conditions and comes to the important conclusion that in most situations, either the storage applications' speed or the drive throughput speed are the limiting factors in tape drive performance. Typical storage application throughput of 50-60 MB/s falls far short of the 400 MB/s maximum speed of a 4GB SCSI FCP interface. Even with compressed data, current tape drive technologies are also not able to write or read data any faster than a 4 GB (400 MB/s) SCSI FCP interface can push the data.

Back in the Jurassic age of computing, we naively assumed that tape storage was essentially "forever." That proved not to be the case! Another very interesting paper that addresses the issue of longtime archival is Protecting Your Archival Data With Improved Tape Dimensional Stability. This brief paper gives you some insight into the factors that make for longer lasting tape – its dimensional stability. Of course, some of these are environmental, but the substrate used is very important; advances in tape substrates have resulted in significant improvements over the last decade. Oracle's selection of aramid as the StorageTek T10000 T2 substrate has resulted in superior tape dimensional stability performance and long-term archival life.

Finally, don't miss Redefining Tape Usage With StorageTek Tape Tiering Accelerator and StorageTek In-Drive Reclaim Accelerator.The StorageTek In-drive Reclaim Accelerator and StorageTek Tape Tiering Accelerator, an important innovation in the T1000C Tape Drive, provide the capability to randomly access, add or delete physical partitions. This paper goes into the nitty gritty of how this works.

Existing tape media can store more than a terabyte of user data. In the near future, a single tape media will hold tens of terabytes, with 100 TB capacities in the foreseeable future. Managing these multi-terabyte tape cartridges requires a new approach for managing data on tape. Oracle has developed a new tape storage format with the StorageTek T10000C tape drive, using an innovative partitioning architecture, that allows the addition or removal of storage space as needed. With these capacities and efficiencies, tape remains an important medium for enterprise archiving.

- Kemer


Rick Ramsey
Kemer Thomson
and members of the OTN community


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