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From IBM, Random File Access on Tape, RAO Accelerates Data Retrieval

RAO enables tape control applications to accelerate retrieval of data segments or user data segments – files or blocks of data.

Organizations that need long-term retention of large amounts of data often rely on tape storage due to its endurance, low energy consumption, low TCO, and sustainability. But when it comes to retrieving random files, it’s widely recognized that tape can’t match the speed of HDDs or flash storage.

But there’s some good news on that front. An innovation in tape technology called Random Access Ordering (RAO) has recently improved random file retrieval times for LTO-9 drives significantly. RAO has been available in IBM enterprise tape products for years, but only recently has this capability been added to LTO-9 full-high tape drives.

RAO enables tape control applications to accelerate the retrieval of data segments or user data segments (UDSs) – files or blocks of data. It improves random access time to data segments on tape by as much as 86%, when compared with retrievals of the same data segments linearly.

Let’s take a detailed review of the IBM LTO-9 tape drive performance for retrieving random files.

LTO-9 performance spec:

  • Native data rate of up to 400MB/s
  • Native data physical capacity of 18TB
  • The data compression keeps the ratio to 2.5:1
  • Support for 8Gb FC and 12Gb SAS connectivity
  • SkipSync Function to provide small file backhitchless flush capability
  • Cache buffer: 1,024MB

LTO-9 L9 media RAO performance

The Locate and Locate+Read performance of the LTO-9 tape media on the LTO-9 tape drive is described by the following set of charts that show how the drive behaves when locating or locating+reading data in the access order determined by RAO and Sorted by record number using differing numbers of 200MB UDSes (4, 8, 16, 32, 128, 512 and 2,000).

It took less time to locate and locate+read when the order of the access was determined by RAO compared to when the order of access was determined by sorting by record number.

LTO 9 L9 media RAO locate+read performance range

The range of the Locate+Read performance of the LTO-9 tape media on the LTO-9 tape drive is described by the following set of charts that show how the drive behaves when locating+reading data in the access order determined by RAO and Sorted by record number using differing numbers of 200MB UDSes (4, 8, 16, 32, 128, 512 and 2,000).

During the performance testing the same magnitude of performance enhancement using RAO was observed when using LTO-8 tape media to read segments on LTO-9 tape drives.

Conclusions

Since the introduction of the first LTO tape drive, every successive gen has incorporated new features and performance improvements. Now the LTO-9 tape drives in conjunction with the new LTO-9 media represent an efficient solution for today’s growing storage demands.

IBM LTO-9 tape drives are a storage solution for businesses requiring backup and archival storage of their data. With the addition of RAO, customers now have the same benefits, along with increased speed.

Performance benchmark protocols

All performance benchmarks were run on the following systems:

  • IBM System x3550 M5 server running RHEL 7.5 with QLogic ISP8324-based 16Gb FC and N2225 12Gb SAS external HBA.
  • Performance data was captured with C-based performance measurement tools designed to fully exercise the host interface and tape drive with the least amount of overhead.
  • All data rates/capacity reflect a decimal basis where MB=1,000,000 bytes and GB=1,000MB.
  • Actual tape drive data rate and cartridge capacity will vary depending on data compression rates, server performance, operating system variability, firmware, and other factors.
  • All RAO tests were performed with tapes fully written with non-compressible data.
  • Multiple RAO runs were performed using random UDS locations for each number of UDSes of the size indicated to show an average time. Some charts show the minimum and maximum times of these runs to illustrate potential variations in results.
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