LTO-8 TAPE FIGHT

There are some lawsuits over LTO-8 tape which is 12TB each. Big shops like NASA need a lot of storage. The litigation is stupid, cross licensing does not seem to matter. All this will do is kill the industry once and for all.

Fujifilm has patents on media and Sony was making tape. Nobody can buy tape in the US at present. The current situation is that Sony can bring tapes to market but its not known how expensive they are going to be following the litigation. The litigation is mostly likely going to bury LTO if it cannot be settled anytime soon.

Checking LTO-8 tape is widely unavailable. Prices from $160 and up have been posted with no stock available. LTO-7 M8 tapes are available for about $68 which is all that shops can use at the moment and the cost per GB is the lowest at present.

ibm-system-370

Tape has lasted longer than expected as racks of hard disks become increasingly low cost. Hard disks are available at 14TB and 60 of them fit into a 4U chassis in a rack based system. In a standard 42U rack there can be 10 such large storage units with room for the network box. The raw capacity is 8.4PB per standard rack with some reduction for fault tolerance.

The hard disk rack does cost some cash but the average selling price has fallen while the capacity has risen sharply. Tape robots are hard pressed to compete with a rows of hard disk racks it’s now possible to achieve over 1EB in a standard datacenter. Backblaze has installed over 100,000 hard disks in their business of providing backup services for consumers.

Hard disk capacity has slowed in recent years and tape capacity has also slowed. This simply means that vast archives need a fairly large center in order to handle the needs of NASA etc. Seagate commissioned a report that suggests the global storage needs will top 175ZB by 2025.

IMPERFECT STORAGE

 IBM provides tape libraries, tape subsystems, VTL’s and tape mechanisms.  They do not provide tape. LTO-7 is 6TB while LTO-8 is 12TB. LTO-8 drives can format new LTO-7 tapes to 9TB which is a compromise pending resolution to the disputes.

Disks and tape have their own issues with imperfections. NASA reported some years ago that an archive of tapes was 75% bad tape. This suggests a strong level of error correction is needed. Optical disks use several layers of error correction but tape and hard disks have been slow to adopt the robustness. Solomon Reed coding has been widely used as a forward error correcting technique. It can be used to add redundancy to any file so that its integrity is assured. Tape has added a file system so that a user can stream files as easily as copying from the Windows explorer. The hard disks has offered a file system from the beginning.

The old Gemini and and Apollo missions used older IBM System 360 mainframes that launched the vacuum column tape drives. Archives with warehouses of tape remain in storage mostly as they are copied and stand as a backup. Many old tapes were erased and reused as costs for tape were very high early on. Archiving data effectively did not really gain focus until years later.

The IBM System 370 shows the old style 9 track tape drives along the back. Larger systems would possibly have several more tape drives to handle media conversions and overall online access to data.

The old QuickPar is 32-bit so it has some limitations to the amount of files it can protect. More recently MultiPar (Japanese) has surfaced but the person has not published a 64-bit version as if yet. 7-zip is free and it can carve up a large block of data into a set of files. QuickPar can then add some redundancy blocks which will allow the recovery of lost blocks. The level of recovery possible is very adjustable from say 1% to as much as 20%.

Linux has a command line version of QuickPar that can be used for larger blocks of archive files intended for removable media or dark storage.

QLC FLASH

SSD products like the Intel 660p installed in the box are QLC (4-bits per cell) based which makes the product even cheaper to manufacture. QLC will pressure hard disks in addition to tape. The price of LTO-8 tapes are far more than double the LTO-7 ones.

LARGE TAPE ARCHIVES

Enterprise storage vendors have 1-3 rack sized setups that can hold over 1,000 tapes and over 12 drives. Tapes are generally in trays of 12 and with LTO-8 that gives 144TB of storage per tray.

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