• July 9, 2012

10 tape technology features that make you go hmm.

A week ago an
Oracle/StorageTek Tape Specialist, Christian Vanden Balck, visited Vienna, and agreed to
visit customers to do techtalks and update them about the
technology boom going around tape.

I had the privilege to attend some of his sessions and noted the
information and features that took the customers by surprise and
made them think.

Allow me to
share the top 10:

I. StorageTek as a brand:
StorageTek is one of he strongest names in the Tape field. The
brand itself was valued so much by customers that even after Sun
Microsystems acquiring StorageTek and the Oracle acquiring Sun the
brand lives on with all the Oracle tapelibraries are officially
branded StorageTek.
See http://www.oracle.com/us/products/servers-storage/storage/tape-storage/overview/index.html

II. Disk
information density limitations:
Disk technology struggles
with information density. You haven't seen the disk sizes
exploding lately, have you? That's partly because there are
physical limits on a disk platter. The size is given, the number
of platters is limited, they just can't grow, and are running out
of physical area to write to. Now, in a T10000C tape cartridge we
have over 1000m long tape. There you go, you have got your
physical space and don't need to stuff all that data crammed
together. You can write in a reliable pattern, and have space to
grow too.

III. Oracle has a market share of 62% worldwide in recording head manufacturing. That's right. If you are running LTO drives, with a good chance you rely on StorageTek production. That's two out of three LTO recording heads produced worldwide. 

IV. You can store 1
Exabyte data in a single tape library
. Yes, an Exabyte. That is 1000
Petabytes. Or, a million Terabytes. A thousand million GigaBytes.
You can store that in a stacked StorageTek SL8500 tapelibrary. In
one SL8500 you can put 10.000 T10000C cartridges, that store 10TB data
(compressed). You can stack 10 of these SL8500s together. Boom.
1000.000 TB.
(n.b.: stacking means interconnecting the libraries. Yes, cartridges are moved between the stacked libraries automatically.) 

V. EMC: 'Tape
doesn't suck after all. We moved on.'
: Do you remember
the infamous 'Tape sucks, move on' Datadomain slogan? Of course
they had to put it that way, having only had disk products. But
here's a fun fact: on the EMCWorld 2012 there was a major presence
of a Tape-tech company
 - EMC, in a sudden burst of sanity is embracing tape again.

VI. The
miraculous T10000C:
Oracle StorageTek has developed an
enterprise-grade tapedrive and cartridge, the T10000C. With
awesome numbers:

  • The Cartridge:
    • Native 5TB capacity, 10TB with compression
    • Over a kilometer long tape within the cartridge. And it's
      locked when unmounted, no rattling of your data. 
    • Replaced the metalparticles datalayer with BaFe (bariumferrite) -
      metalparticles lose around 7% of magnetism within 30 days. BaFe does not. Yes
      we employ solid-state physicists doing R&D on
      demagnetisation in our labs.
    • Can be partitioned, storage tiering within the
  • The Drive:
    • 2GB Cache
    • Encryption implemented in HW - no performance hit
    • 252 MB/s native sustained data rate, beats disk technology by far. Not to mention peak throughput. 
    • Leading the tape while never touching the data side of it,
      protecting your data physically too
    • Data integritiy checking (CRC recalculation) on tape within the drive without
      having to read it back to the server
    • reordering data from tape-order, delivering it back in
    • writing 32 tracks at once, reading them back for CRC check
      at once

VII. You only use 20% of your data on a regular basis.The rest 80% is just lying around for years. On continuously
spinning disks. Doubly consuming energy (power+cooling), blocking
diskstorage capacity. There is a solution called SAM (Storage
Archive Manager) that provides you a filesystem unifying disk and
tape, moving data on-demand and for clients transparently between
the different storage tiers. You can share these filesystems with
NFS or CIFS for clients, and enjoy the low TCO of tape. Tapes don't spin. They sit quietly in their slots, storing 10TB
data, using no energy, producing no heat, automounted when a client accesses their data.
See: http://www.oracle.com/us/products/servers-storage/storage/storage-software/storage-archive-manager/overview/index.html

VIII. HW supported for up to two decades: Did you know that
the original PowderHorn library was released in '93 and has been
only discontinued in 2010? That is nearly two decades of supported
operation. Tape libraries are - just like the data carrying on
tapecartridges - built for longevity. Oh, and the T10000C cartridge has 30-year archival life for long-term retention. 

IX. Tape is easy to manage: Have you heard of Tape
Storage Analytics? It is a central graphical tool to summarize,
monitor, analyze dataflow, health and performance of drives and libraries, see: http://www.oracle.com/us/products/servers-storage/storage/tape-storage/tape-analytics/overview/index.html

X. The next generation: The T10000B drives were able to reuse the T10000A cartridges and write on them even
more data. On the same cartridges. We call this investment
protection, and this is very important for Oracle for the future too. We usually support two generations of cartridges together. The current drive is a T10000C

(...I know I promised to enlist 10, but I got still two more I really want to mention. Allow me to work around the problem: )

X++. The TallBots, the robots moving around the cartridges
in the StorageTek library from tapeslots to the drives are
cableless. Cables, belts, chains running to moving parts in a
library cause maintenance downtimes. So StorageTek eliminated them. The
TallBots get power, commands, even firmwareupgrades through
the rails they are running on. Also, the TallBots don't just
hook'n'pull the tapes out of their slots, they actually
grip'n'lift them out. No friction, no scratches, no zillion little
plastic particles floating around in the library, in the drives,
on your data.

(X++)++: Tape beats SSDs and Disks. In terms of throughput
(252 MB/s), in terms of TCO: disks cause around 290x more power
and cooling, in terms of capacity: 10TB on a single media and soon

So... do you need to store large amounts of data? Are you legally
bound to archive it for dozens of years? Would you benefit from
automatic storage tiering? Have you got large mediachunks to be
streamed at times? Have you got power and cooling issues in the
growing datacenters? Do you find EMC's 180° turn of tape attitude
interesting, but appreciate it at the same time? With all that, you aren't alone. The most data on this planet is stored on tape.

Tape is coming. Big time.

Join the discussion

Comments ( 2 )
  • guest Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    Powderhorn was next generation library introduced in 1993. The library in 1988 was the 4410.

  • Karoly Vegh Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    You're right, thanks for pointing in out, I will update the post accordingly.

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