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Cost Effective, Reliable, Energy-Efficient: LTO-7 Tape Plays a Key Role for Organizations

Did you know that it is more than a billion times more likely that you will get hit by lightning in your lifetime than you will encounter an unrecoverable LTO-7 media error?

Nothing is more cost-effective, reliable, and energy-efficient for long-term data retention than tape. Per ESG, LTO’s role in the modern data center found that by looking at tape technology through a modern lens, it can provide speed, durability, and economic benefits that are undeniable. As part of their research, ESG became familiar with one of the largest super computing environments used for multiple research programs, including hurricane/tornado modeling, the Big Bang, and other critical applications. This system, which utilizes LTO storage, has a capacity of 380 petabytes (PB) – the equivalent of 5,054 years of HDTV video or a stack of books reaching over nine times the distance from the Earth to the moon. And no task is too big for LTO - when it comes to scalability for very large storage environments, ESG found that an LTO solution could be scaled to meet just about any storage needs.

Tape technology has a long history in data protection, and even with the adoption of disk and cloud targets, it still plays a major role in many backup and archive environments. According to ESG research, 49% of backup environments leverage tape today with 23% relying solely on tape. Clearly tape is not a new concept for IT professionals, but some of its new features and best practices might be. ESG Lab confirmed that the addition of partitioning and LTFS adds compelling new uses cases for LTO technology. Now, this removable media can be easily used with its native utilities for file-level operations, and these file-level capabilities can be expanded to tape-as-NAS and tiered storage solutions. Also, when deployed with modern data protection best practices, tape—combined with disk and cloud components—can extend efficiency while providing customers with huge data storage flexibility.

When it comes to reliability in tape-based data storage solutions, the number one priority should be the ability to access data when needed. A tape drive may fail, but if the data can still be read back with another drive, then retrieval is successful. Other important considerations include media durability, media shelf life, drive reliability, and probably most importantly, end-user best practices.

ESG Lab began its review of LTO solution reliability by interviewing members of the quality assurance team from an LTO Program participant, along with exploring LTO media characteristics. LTO media was designed on the premise that it would be loaded into a device, written to, removed, moved, stored, recalled, and reloaded into a device when data needed to be retrieved. With that in mind, each consortium member is constantly working to keep LTO media highly reliable, portable, and rugged enough to be moved without impacting data integrity.

LTO Ultrium media reliability starts with format design. First, data is spread across multiple channels (8, 16, or 32, depending on generation) to protect against single-head element or media defects. Then error detection/correction code (ECC) is applied at two levels. Level one ECC rewrites the data to another location further down the original track. Level two ECC rewrites the data across multiple tracks and allows for data recovery in the event of a totally bad track. The process uses read-while-write verification where the read head checks the validity of each dataset written. If a data sub-set logs an error, it is automatically rewritten. These format design features produce a one in 1019 bit-error-rate (BER) for LTO-7 media. In layman’s terms, this means that it would take 130 tape drives writing data continually for one year to encounter an error that could not be fixed by ECC. As shown in Figure 7, you are more likely (1 in 1016) to hit an uncorrectable error in your enterprise disk environment. In fact, you would have a much higher probably of:

  • Getting hit by lightning; the odds are one in a million.
  • Getting killed by a shark; the odds are one in 11.5 million.
  • Winning a multi-million dollar lottery; the odds are 1 in 259 million.


LTO-7 Error Rate

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