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The opportunities for LTO tape in the era of Cloud and Big Data

The LTO tape market reached two significant milestones this month. LTO-6 tape media pricing fell below one cent per gigabyte and total worldwide tape storage media capacity shipped reached record levels. These two announcements are intrinsically linked with LTO's powerful blend of cost-effectiveness plus scalability, reliability and portability being key drivers as to why more data is being stored on tape than ever before.

As evidenced by these two milestones, even as the role of tape has shifted over the years, LTO tape has remained a critical component for the modern data centre. For example, Big Data archive has emerged as a key usage model for tape, fuelled by data growth, unprecedented cartridge capacity increases, longer media life, improved bit error rates and a growing ecosystem of Linear Tape File System (LTFS) based solutions. This makes a lot of sense, as LTO tape continues to offer the lowest cost solution for long-term data retention and reliable retrieval, making it ideal media for Big Data archives.

Our customers understand the value of LTO tape for archive particularly in the context of growing regulatory requirements to maintain access to data “forever.” Not to mention the demand for Big Data to be retained, analyzed and monetized. A recent research study from Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) concluded that 82% of of tape-using respondents surveyed anticipated either maintaining or increasing their organization’s use of tape for long-term retention.

LTO tape’s archive use case is resonating with customers and partners across all major industries around the world. We are seeing particularly strong traction in data-intensive markets such as media and entertainment, scientific research, oil and gas exploration, surveillance, cloud and HPC.

As an example, DreamWorks Animation recently implemented an active archive solution to safeguard a 2-petabyte portfolio of video animation assets, supporting a long-term asset preservation strategy. The studio’s comprehensive, tiered converged active archive architecture which spans software, disk and tape saves the company time and money while reducing risk. DreamWorks estimates that the implementation of tape saves between 15 and 20 kilowatts per hour for each petabyte of spinning disk.

Cloud based archive services such as Google Nearline and Amazon Glacier are designed for smaller data sets in “cold” archives where retrieval requirements are minimal to zero. The bandwidth and retrieval costs of these services mean that they are simply not practical for markets such as media and entertainment and high performance computing, where multi-petabyte active archives are commonplace and where data is indexed and accessed frequently. Hence, the economics of cloud-based verses on-premise are highly dependent upon your particular storage and access requirements. No one size fits all!

The LTO technology roadmap has recently expanded to 10 generations. The proposed capacities and transfer rates are breathtaking. Gen 10 capacities are targeted to reach 120TB compressed in a single cartridge, which is the equivalent capacity of 600 generation 1 LTO cartridges! In addition to the huge capacity leaps, transfer rates are expected to reach a staggering 2,750 MB/sec (2.75GB/s) compressed. In contrast generation 1 of LTO was 40MB/sec. Each new generation includes read-and-write backwards compatibility with the prior generation as well as read compatibility with cartridges from two generations prior to protect investments and ease tape conversion and implementation.

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Tandberg Data RDX Quikstor Removable Disk Cartridges

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