Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 29th Aug 2018 22:05 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Studies show that the amount of data being recorded is increasing at 30 to 40 percent per year. At the same time, the capacity of modern hard drives, which are used to store most of this, is increasing at less than half that rate. Fortunately, much of this information doesn’t need to be accessed instantly. And for such things, magnetic tape is the perfect solution.

Seriously? Tape? The very idea may evoke images of reels rotating fitfully next to a bulky mainframe in an old movie like Desk Set or Dr. Strangelove. So, a quick reality check: tape has never gone away!

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Comment by Phloptical
by Phloptical on Thu 30th Aug 2018 01:28 UTC
Phloptical
Member since:
2006-10-10

Because the cost per TB for offsite archive storage is still better and more reliable than spinning disk. I’ve had to restore data from 10 year old sdlt tapes and have done it successfully.

Reply Score: 7

RE: Comment by Phloptical
by ilovebeer on Thu 30th Aug 2018 03:12 UTC in reply to "Comment by Phloptical"
ilovebeer Member since:
2011-08-08

Magnetic tape libraries might make sense for large companies with massive amounts of data that can sit offline for years in a temperature-controlled facility but you can forget it when it comes to typical users.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by Phloptical
by unclefester on Thu 30th Aug 2018 04:39 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Phloptical"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

Back in the olden Days some people used to backup to VHS tapes.

Reply Score: 5

RE[3]: Comment by Phloptical
by Sauron on Thu 30th Aug 2018 06:51 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Phloptical"
Sauron Member since:
2005-08-02

I used VHS backup myself briefly, it was very cool for the time and more importantly, affordable for home use!
I still use magnetic tape backup even now for some things, I use a DDS 3 tape drive and tapes.
It was only last week I retrieved some files from a tape that had been stored for around 10 years, I backed these files up on my old WinXP system in around 2007/2008, they're still fine now!
Sometimes old technologies are still better!

Reply Score: 5

RE[4]: Comment by Phloptical
by avgalen on Thu 30th Aug 2018 08:25 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Phloptical"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

I used VHS backup myself briefly, it was very cool for the time and more importantly, affordable for home use!
I still use magnetic tape backup even now for some things, I use a DDS 3 tape drive and tapes.
It was only last week I retrieved some files from a tape that had been stored for around 10 years, I backed these files up on my old WinXP system in around 2007/2008, they're still fine now!
Sometimes old technologies are still better!

And I just copied some files from some 15 year old harddisks by using a PATA/SATA->USB converter. The problem wasn't the disks but the broken RAID-controller on the old motherboard. I can also still read all of the data from old USB-Sticks or burned CD's. After restoring about 250 GB of data I copied about 2 GB of data to OneDrive and trashed the other GB's and the 6 disks.

The only reason tape is great is because of backups, which is also by far the most storage-hungry part of almost every IT-system. Most systems that I manage are applications that are a few MB in size with databases that have a few MB of really important data, several GB of data in binary blobs (files) and 100's of GB's of backups

Reply Score: 5

RE[5]: Comment by Phloptical
by Sauron on Thu 30th Aug 2018 09:05 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by Phloptical"
Sauron Member since:
2005-08-02

"I used VHS backup myself briefly, it was very cool for the time and more importantly, affordable for home use!
I still use magnetic tape backup even now for some things, I use a DDS 3 tape drive and tapes.
It was only last week I retrieved some files from a tape that had been stored for around 10 years, I backed these files up on my old WinXP system in around 2007/2008, they're still fine now!
Sometimes old technologies are still better!

And I just copied some files from some 15 year old harddisks by using a PATA/SATA->USB converter. The problem wasn't the disks but the broken RAID-controller on the old motherboard. I can also still read all of the data from old USB-Sticks or burned CD's. After restoring about 250 GB of data I copied about 2 GB of data to OneDrive and trashed the other GB's and the 6 disks.

The only reason tape is great is because of backups, which is also by far the most storage-hungry part of almost every IT-system. Most systems that I manage are applications that are a few MB in size with databases that have a few MB of really important data, several GB of data in binary blobs (files) and 100's of GB's of backups
"
Well done and all that but, what has any of that got to do with magnetic tape storage?
I frequently use hard drives nearly 30 year old on my Amiga computers but it has nothing to do with tape backup.
The reason I still use tape a lot is because of my retro computers, I have Amiga's with tape drives, Win95, Win98 and XP systems with tape drives, non of the discussion was about hard drives or SATA/RAID controllers. Heck, when most of these old tape systems were in vogue, SATA hadn't even been invented and a lot of stuff was running off SCSI!

Reply Score: 1

RE[6]: Comment by Phloptical
by avgalen on Fri 31st Aug 2018 10:16 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Comment by Phloptical"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

I just reacted that harddrives are fine for consumers to restore data from a decade later and where much more common with consumers than tape (RAID was only mentioned because I thought this would protect my data but actually was the reason I needed to start a complicated recovery)

Restoring data from disks is easy. Converters to USB are available everywhere for peanuts.
Restoring data from tapes is only easy when you have a tapedrive that can read your tape with. These drives are likely to be available but require some searching and running the right software might also be an issue.

But the real reason tape is so important are huge company backups.

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Comment by Phloptical
by Kochise on Thu 30th Aug 2018 08:27 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Phloptical"
Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03

Magneto-optical disks are top notch. Sony's Xdcam disk reaches 50GB for something like $40, but the drive is expensive as hell.

Reply Score: 1

RE[5]: Comment by Phloptical
by abubasim on Thu 30th Aug 2018 08:45 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by Phloptical"
abubasim Member since:
2008-10-16

The current generation of LTO: LTO 8 takes 12TB per cartridge uncompressed. That's 240 of your XDCAM per tape.

Reply Score: 5

RE[6]: Comment by Phloptical
by Kochise on Thu 30th Aug 2018 10:19 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Comment by Phloptical"
Kochise Member since:
2006-03-03

That's sure a lot of saved space, thanks for the info. How LTO deals with xray, humidity and temperature ?

Reply Score: 2

RE[7]: Comment by Phloptical
by dhaen on Thu 30th Aug 2018 10:37 UTC in reply to "RE[6]: Comment by Phloptical"
dhaen Member since:
2015-10-26

That's sure a lot of saved space, thanks for the info. How LTO deals with xray, humidity and temperature ?

Normally they're in tape libraries in a controlled environment. With petabytes of data, the assets becomes valuable enough to make the environment costs worthwhile.
There are proprietary tape formats too, such a the IBM TS1155 with 15GB uncompressed per cartridge.
Although they quote amazingly low data error rates for tape, you have to be make provision that a tape may suddenly stop working.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by Phloptical
by Phloptical on Fri 31st Aug 2018 02:47 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Phloptical"
Phloptical Member since:
2006-10-10

Magnetic tape libraries might make sense for large companies with massive amounts of data that can sit offline for years in a temperature-controlled facility but you can forget it when it comes to typical users.


Yes, you’re right. Especially when you’re in an industry that requires everything be saved forever. For personal, I have a safety deposit box with a 2tb drive sitting in a bank that’s my offsite storage for all of our family pictures. I bring it out once every now and then to update but it sits in the box. Hopefully the bearings won’t be a problem.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by The1stImmortal
by The1stImmortal on Thu 30th Aug 2018 10:41 UTC
The1stImmortal
Member since:
2005-10-20

Going forward, I can see a market for tape as a bulk storage presented via cloud from massive temperature-controlled robotic libraries with redundant drive arrays. Similar to Amazon Glacier.

However, for SME, and branch offices, nope. It's cheaper and easier to use disk or over-the-wire remote storage for backups, even if they're presented through a VTL to look like tape.

Most of our customers dropped tape for a simple reason - the drive mechanisms are incredibly unreliable. Barely a week went by where we weren't swapping out a drive that had chewed up a tape or wasn't reading properly any more or wasn't ejecting properly. And these were expensive (though standalone) modern LTO drives. Even in the tape libraries we were supporting in the field, the drive failure rate was unacceptable, even before you compared to disks.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Comment by The1stImmortal
by ahferroin7 on Thu 30th Aug 2018 12:17 UTC in reply to "Comment by The1stImmortal"
ahferroin7 Member since:
2015-10-30

Going forward, I can see a market for tape as a bulk storage presented via cloud from massive temperature-controlled robotic libraries with redundant drive arrays. Similar to Amazon Glacier.

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if that's actually what Amazon Glacier is under the hood. The economics of it work out way more in their favor if it's tape than for other magnetic storage, or optical or electronic (SSD).

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment by The1stImmortal
by zima on Sat 1st Sep 2018 00:57 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by The1stImmortal"
zima Member since:
2005-07-06

Twice, when close to expiring, my Onedrive needed "unfreezing" (which was supposed to take up to 24 hoours; but it took few to ~dozen minutes); I wonder if data was moved to automated tape archive...

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by The1stImmortal
by dhaen on Thu 30th Aug 2018 19:48 UTC in reply to "Comment by The1stImmortal"
dhaen Member since:
2015-10-26

.... - the drive mechanisms are incredibly unreliable. Barely a week went by where we weren't swapping out a drive that had chewed up a tape or wasn't reading properly any more or wasn't ejecting properly. And these were expensive (though standalone) modern LTO drives. Even in the tape libraries we were supporting in the field, the drive failure rate was unacceptable, even before you compared to disks.


Yes you get through a lot of drives but considering the data throughput it's not so bad. Actually we've found the LTO drives more reliable than the proprietary ones.
In our case disks would be unsustainable due to power consumption. It's horses for courses.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by The1stImmortal
by Alfman on Fri 31st Aug 2018 04:04 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by The1stImmortal"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

dhaen,

Yes you get through a lot of drives but considering the data throughput it's not so bad. Actually we've found the LTO drives more reliable than the proprietary ones.
In our case disks would be unsustainable due to power consumption. It's horses for courses.


How did you factor in power consumption? To be fair disks don't have to be powered 24/7 and like tapes can be turned off for long term archiving.

While I don't have an expensive setup, and probably have less data than you, I find an external SATA drive cage works wonders. You can power it on and off using a remote power console so it doesn't consume electricity. I'm sure somebody sells more expensive/sophisticated enterprise gear but for DIY types this approach is quite viable.


I'd say one major benefit of the disk array is that they can periodically be turned on, scanned for corruption and repaired before all copies deteriorate. While you could do this with tapes, you'd either need some poor staff spending a week every year scanning tons of tapes manually or have a very expensive tape system that can automatically retrieve and scan your archival tape library.

Reply Score: 4

arcserve
by xfire on Thu 30th Aug 2018 10:51 UTC
xfire
Member since:
2018-08-22

Let's just say what a pain in the A managing tape based backups. When I switched company I moved from an excellent FreeNAS ZFS storage back to Windows+Arcserve+6.2TB tapes. It is like going back to the dark ages.
Backups take so much time that we are in the middle of next day and they are still running doh ;)

Tapes were always expensive for the end users and surprisingly if you don't buy some old 200GB junk cartridges but want real capacity they still are expensive. The drive, scsi card, not to mention if you planning on buying a commercial software for backups. There are people who swear that they are the most reliable storage over long time period 30-50 years but I wonder how an EMP blast would not erase the same data on a tape like on a HDD?! If you put a hdd in a fireproof safe to a good location it should be as good as a tape.

Reply Score: 3

RE: arcserve
by ahferroin7 on Thu 30th Aug 2018 12:50 UTC in reply to "arcserve"
ahferroin7 Member since:
2015-10-30

For the media itself, tape is actually marginally less reliable than a hard drive when you're not factoring in mechanical failure of the associated components. It's a bit more temperature and humidity sensitive simply because of what it is.

There are three big advantages tapes have over hard drives though:

* Tapes are inherently removable and portable, hard drives are not. This is important for simplicity of off-site storage. Prepping tapes for off-site transport takes no more time than packing them into boxes. It takes significantly longer to prep hard drives for transport, because you need to ESD bag them and make sure they are properly cushioned in their boxes.

* Tapes have no associated electronics embedded with the storage media, and have very little in the way of associated mechanical components. This means that there are fewer ways a tape can get damaged than a hard drive, and more importantly, they're not static sensitive.

* They have superior storage density, though this gap is narrowing. LTO-8 Ultrium cartridges are 102.0x105.4x21.5mm, and hold 12 TB of uncompressed data, which translates to roughly 54.4MB per cubic millimeter. A conventional enterprise hard drive is 146.0x101.6x25.4mm with the largest current capacity being 14 TB, which is roughly 38.9MB per cubic millimeter. So, you get about 30% more data into the same total space with tapes than with hard drives, and that gap has been even wider historically. As a comparison, the difference for the old 1998 vintage HP 9000 system I used to have between the hard drives and the tapes was a factor of about 200% better storage density on the tapes.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: arcserve
by avgalen on Fri 31st Aug 2018 10:26 UTC in reply to "RE: arcserve"
avgalen Member since:
2010-09-23

Most backup systems have several tiers:
1) A live-RAID system (SAN) with spare drives and hot-standby (not technically a backup)
2) A separate disk based "hot-backup" system. This allows you to restore a backup from yesterday immediately
3) A tape based cold-backup system. Immediately or Periodically moved to a different physical location and stored/rotated monthly/yearly


Tier 3 is sometimes getting replaced by internetbased backups, but often the amount of data is too big to be transferred this way or security is an issue

And of course Cloud-based computing has moved a lot of this responsibility to the Cloud-provider that can sync between data-centers at very high speeds for low prices. I am not sure if this is eventually stored on tape but I would expect so

Reply Score: 3