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Combine flash and tape and what do you get? FLAPE

It’s a new emerging storage architecture for long term data retention that combines FLash drives and tAPE = FLAPE. Using flash, you get instant access to data that was most recently accessed (written or read) or to metadata to help you quickly search your vast amounts of data that has been archived. With tape as a back-end storage platform, you have a cost-effective storage solution that blends the performance benefits of flash with the economics of tape.

The combination of tape and flash, for large objects/files, is going to offer not only lower costs, but also much higher performance than spinning disk-based alternatives. This changes the dynamics of storage for long-term data retention and so-called big data lakes. The key to this approach will be surfacing metadata, currently buried on tape cartridges, to a flash layer that can signal the location of desired data on the tape. Combined with linear tape file system technology, we believe this approach will deliver better business value for the right use cases. This contrarian view is a function of: 1) Lack of investment in high speed disk technology, specifically head tech; 2) The far better bandwidth improvements capable with tape relative to spinning disk and 3) The economics of flash relative to disk.

Using an Archive Manager Software with a tape library. This solution utilizes cache storage sitting in front of tape and presents a virtual mount point to network clients. These clients simply mount the volume and access it like any other volume. File writes made to the volume are first staged in the cache and are written to tape when the cache fills to a predetermined level. Stubs are left in place at the file location and the data is written to tape using Linear Tape File System (LTFS).  For on-going protection, the database information in the flash cache is frequently written to tape.

While some users may choose to use disk as the cache storage, you can simply substitute your disk system with flash drives and instantly increase your performance. The flash drives can be installed internally to the host machine or can be in an external array. With flash drives, lab testing showed a performance increase of 100% from 135 MB/sec to 270 MB/sec of throughput per virtual volume in the worst case scenario (simultaneous cache writes, cache reads, tape writes & database updates). Read-and-write operations to the cache without the tape overhead is even faster. By adding more volumes to the host, you can easily scale your aggregate throughput to over 2 GB/sec (final throughput dependent on host specifications).

Depending on the specific software that you use to manage your archive data, you can also use flash drives to host the metadata information that your application uses for data queries. This provides for quick searches to help pinpoint the information you need to retrieve. If the data is in the flash cache, it will be ready immediately and can be read quickly. If it’s on tape, Archive Manager will automatically retrieve it with only a slight delay while the cartridge is loaded in the drive. Once it’s pulled from tape, it will stay in the flash cache for subsequent retrievals based on access and will be overwritten only when new data is accessed and there is not enough room in the flash cache.  For example, if a news story breaks and you need to pull video clips or photographs to supplement a report, these items will be readily available for other editors for additional news stories that may use the same content.

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