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Old March 12th, 2010, 11:18 AM   #1
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The Looming Data Storage Conundrum

As an I.T. professional with extensive experience in disaster recovery who aspires to work as a D.I.T./Data Manager it is my perception that there is an Elephant in the room that nobody sees, or if they see it they're not talking about it... at least not anywhere that I can find.

The limitations of contemporary data storage solutions.

Generally speaking (ignoring SxS, P2, etc.) all of the data storage form factors fall into one of two physical envelopes... one based on a 3 1/2" disc (SATA/SSD) and one based on a 5 1/4" disc (CD/DVD/Blu-Ray/Red-Ray).

To my perception this is insane.

The response of industry to the need for data storage has been to squeeze more and more and more data into the exact same space. Like living in a house where you only go up as your family grows, we've gone from CD to DVD, to Blu-Ray, and now Red-Ray. It's not quite as bad with magnetic media, but the cost of adding disc is eventually prohibitive and never as disaster-proof as optical media.

I can't believe that I am the only one who appreciates that you can only build your home so high.

Even if you use a robot (not that anyone is making one) to maintain your library you will still be forced (eventually) to store your product on multiple discs. I can tell you from experience; the more pieces of media your data is on, the more likely it is that you have nothing.

Is there any media storage solution out there (optical tape?) where one isn't constrained to a form factor no larger then a dog food bowl? I sure would like to know about it.
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Old March 12th, 2010, 11:32 AM   #2
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As you might have guessed, there are very good financial reasons for the present size of drives. Not the least of which is economy of scale as well has not having to build entirely new chassis around new sizes of media which is VERY VERY expensive to do.

If you want to do long term archive you can either store to optical, or you can store to tape. LTO4 is the current flavor du jour.

An believe me, you are not the only one talking about it. This has been an issue for years, and it's been tossed around in the pro ranks for years. In fact, there was a huge meeting about it last year with the technology subcommittee of the ASC.

It's a growing problem, and consumers are just not getting to the tip of the iceberg with it. When you consider that 1 minute of film stored in the formats common for film use is the size of an hour of consumer video, the scope of the issue is clear among pros working in the film industry.
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Old March 13th, 2010, 03:41 AM   #3
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Just an FYI - LTO 5 is being publicly shown and is in the process of qualification by several customers who will be buying it on an OEM basis.

I've been told that IBM is planning to have LTO 5 drives at NAB and they will also be demonstrating a feature that effectively supports a file system on the tape cartridge, thus enabling drag and drop functionality. I've seen the drives and have played with the drag and drop capability. They had demo drives at NAB last year in an invitation only room off the main floor but have already shown them publicly on the open floor at at least one recent data show, so I'm not giving away any secrets here.
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Old March 13th, 2010, 04:30 AM   #4
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By the way, there is also a 2.5 inch form factor that is quite popular and is available in quite a few disk array products as well as in portable HDD's of various types. There was also a 1.8 inch form factor but I don't see much of it these days.

Re robotics, there are thousands of robotic tape libraries in use. They range in size from 1U to almost house size.

Re the perils of storing data on multiple disks there are several solutions available that are specifically designed to scatter data across multiple discs (XIV which is now owned by IBM is one of them) in order to minimize risks of single drive failures impacting up time and also to minmize recovery time from disk drive failures.

Various virtualization schemes have been available for years which effectively mask the real size of the physical disks and instead present a logical disk image which can be configured in pretty much any size you like. Some are implemented in hardware, some (like Data Core) in software.

Disk drives starting with IBM RAMAC in the 1950's (when I first got into the data storage business) used 24" discs and form factors have steadily gotten smaller due to the economics of standardized sizes, heat, power, etc etc etc. I believe today many so called 3 1/2 inch disk drives actually use 3 inch disks to minimize heat and enable higher RPM. I don't in any way believe that larger form factors will re-emerge. As an industry we've been there and done that.

I'm not sure that I would characterize disk or tape as inherently less "disaster proof" than optical either. Every technology has it's problems and optical is no exception.

The last serious idea I saw for an optical tape drive was really impressive - until one looked under the covers and realized that the read-write head assembly was about the size of an ice cream sandwich and sucked enough power that it needed cooling. Not to say it couldn't happen, but I doubt it.
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Old March 13th, 2010, 06:22 AM   #5
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I spent five years at Paramount Pictures working in Zukor and the data center in the Marathon office building (does this qualify as name dropping?) and was very familiar with the robotic tape library that they had in the basement. It supported only the mainframe and was very impressive. I don't argue that robots don't exist, but rather that they are not being manufactured to support burning and archiving multiple high capacity optical disc... to the best of my knowledge.

Thank you for the update re: LTO 5. I wonder how it compares to a 3590?
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Old March 13th, 2010, 06:39 AM   #6
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... they're heeeerrrreeeee.....

PROVANTAGE: Quantum TC-L52BN-EZ Quantum LTO-5 Tape Drive, Half Height, Tabletop, SAS HBA Bundle, 6GB/S SAS, Black

For the low low price of $3.8K, including the ultra high speed SAS HBA (Serial Attached SCSI Host Bus) Adapter. 1.6TB native (3.2TB compressed).

Dirt cheap insurance from where I stand.
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Old March 13th, 2010, 08:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Wheeler View Post
... they're heeeerrrreeeee.....

PROVANTAGE: Quantum TC-L52BN-EZ Quantum LTO-5 Tape Drive, Half Height, Tabletop, SAS HBA Bundle, 6GB/S SAS, Black

For the low low price of $3.8K, including the ultra high speed SAS HBA (Serial Attached SCSI Host Bus) Adapter. 1.6TB native (3.2TB compressed).

Dirt cheap insurance from where I stand.
That's not too bad really...

2 questions:

1. Which LTO standards can it read?
2. How much does media cost?
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Old March 14th, 2010, 06:32 PM   #8
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This is from LTO 5 Tape, LTO 5 Tapes Ultrium 5 LTO-5 Tape Cartridge Discount Prices

Quote:
Expect LTO 5 tapes to start shipping in April of 2010.

The Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Program technology provider companies, HP, IBM Corporation and Quantum Corp., announced details for the licensing by storage mechanism and media manufacturers of the LTO Ultrium format generation 5 specifications.

The specifications support tape cartridge storage capacity of 3TB assuming a 2:1 compression, a near doubling of capacity over the previous generation, and tape drive data transfer rates of up to 280MB per second assuming a 2:1 compression. The LTO Ultrium format generation 5 will also include new partitioning functionality, enabling capabilities that can enhance file control and space management, addressing the growing needs of marketplace segments such as Rich Media.

The LTO Ultrium format generation 5 drives are designed with backwards-compatible read-and-write capability with the Ultrium format generation 4 cartridges, and backward read capabilities with generation 3 cartridges, helping to protect investments and ease implementation

In order to meet the increased demands for RFID cartridge labeling, which are thicker in size than current barcode technologies, LTO5 cartridges are being designed with a deeper label cavity allowing these labels to fit better and reduce risk of falling off.
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