Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Archive systems and LTO media

Media companies have already adopted or are in the process of archiving important content to LTO media

Backup vs Archive

One of the first questions for an organization to ask is whether to archive or backup their content.   Either approach can help an organization protect itself against loss of data.   Backup systems are simple, linear systems that record all information stored on a device from start to finish.  When a device fails, the backup copy will be used to rewrite all of the information back onto the failed storage device.   An archive system will store and restore only chosen files as needed, not an entire drive or volume.

The problems with backup are:

  • The process may take a very long time to write all of the data back to the failed drive/location.
  • Sometimes only one file or a select group of files may be needed.
  • An archive with dynamic access is cheaper and more reliable than current storage on hard drives or spinning discs.   If users can easily restore content as needed, then the archive can be a powerful centralized storage system.

Archive systems will cost more money, but most media companies need the rapid access that only an archive system can provide.

Why LTO  Archive? 
  • Security:   LTO (Linear Tape Open) has become the gold standard for IT data backup, with systems widely deployed across the entire range of medium and large enterprises.   The tapes are certified for 30 years of storage.   While hard drives have moving parts which can fail with either frequent use or long periods without use, LTO is based on simple stable magnetic storage technology. 
  •  Openness  LTFS (Linear Tape File System) is an open standard allowing LTFS tapes to be read on any device supporting LTFS.   LTFS files are as easy to use as hard drives, with desktop drag and drop for ingest and a self-describing unit, so users can open a LTFS tape from any compatible Windows, Linux, or Mac system
  • Larger capacity and faster than before:   LTO 6 tapes now hold 2.5TB with a transfer rate of 160MB/s.   If compressed, a tape can hold 6.25TB with a transfer rate of 400MB/s. 
  • Cheaper than hard drives, physical media, and nearline storage systems:  LTO 6 tapes sell for market prices of about $100, which is expected to decrease over time.     This makes it cheaper to store large quantities of data on LTO.

The following diagram shows options based on your organizational need for LTO.

Listed are some popular options.  Contact us for more details and more choices.

Make LTO

Option 1:

An appliance such as the 1 Beyond Net Drive (starting at $6,995) can be used to ingest content from popular camera memory cards.   Different versions of the Net Drive have different card readers, but they all have the ability to play most common camera formats, store content on an internal hard drive, and make multiple copies simultaneously to LTO tapes and hard drives as needed.   

Option 2:

Computer or server with attached LTO drive using LTFS. By using LTFS (Linear Tape File System), users can mount the LTO drive like a hard drive and simply click and drag content to the mounted LTO drive.  One popular standalone desktop model with a SAS connection is the LTO 6 desktop SAS Quantum $2400  (

Option 3:

XenData  X2500 $5690 (see below under manage content).
Option 4:

eMAM Vault:   $59,900  (see below under manage content).

Store LTO

LTO media can be stored in automated appliances and robotic tape libraries.   These systems store the cartridges inside the system.   Like the arm putting the vinyl LP onto the jukebox, the LTO library system automatically pulls the correct LTO from the slot to read or write.    A library system can have one drive or multiple drives, and they can scale to enormous sizes for petabytes of content.   Some libraries support additional tapes stored offline “on the shelf”, with notifications sent when somebody needs to put a given tape into the system.   Some LTO libraries have built in storage (hard drives) to act a buffer to store some of the content for rapid delivery on demand.

With an automated system, content can be written and restored quickly to LTO tapes.   Without a library system, staff needs to find the correct tape(s) and put them in the library system as required.  Instead of investing in a library system, many small organizations store tapes on the shelf, but this is unfeasible for larger organizations or large quantities of content.

LTO robotic systems require special HSM software systems to manage the LTO library.   Empress has partnered with many of the leaders in this field including SGL, XenData, QStar, and CrossRoads.  We can support library systems from many vendors including Quantum, Qualstar, HP, SpectraLogic, Atempo, and Cache-A.

Sample systems are:

Quantum Scalar LTFS Appliance $8263 with the Quantum Scalar i40 tape library starting at $4800

CrossRoads Strong Box 35tb  NAS Appliance  starting at $15,500
(  with up to 35tb of content stored in the system linked with the Spectra T50e Tape Library starting at $13,995

eMAM Vault can also store the content (see below under manage content)

Manage Content

Archive systems have considerable benefits for data security and cost savings, but these are irrelevant if users do not have effective means of finding and using the information they contain.  Effective management can turn an archive system into a powerful shared central repository storing all of the content of a major organization.   

Out of the box, a tape drive or LTO library will have only basic tools for organizing the content.   A standalone tape drive will have no memory of the tapes it has produced and what content each tape stores, so users must use paper logs or a spreadsheet to track where content is stored.

A XenData x2500 connects any computer to a single desktop LTO drive.  In addition to creating LTOs from digital media, a desktop XenData x2500 maintains a list of content put on each LTO tape.    It will keep a folder list of all tapes made and what content is in each drive.  Sharing this desktop information to other network users is a cost effective means for users in the organization to locate media.   Users can then get the right tape to put back into the drive.   This system only supports a list:  it will not allow browse, preview, and other collaboration.

eMAM Vault:   an integrated turnkey system that can create LTO, store the media, and manage the content  ( This powerful system combines the best of all of the options above.  $59,900.

It can create LTO tapes from an attached hard drive or other local source.   It has a powerful dedicated server to manage the library and store the media.   Included with 12TB of storage, it can store some of the content in current storage for faster response processing.  The library includes XenData management software and a Spectra Logic T50 library to store up to 75 TB of internal storage, with additional offline “on the shelf”. 

It has most of the features of the eMAM system ( to manage content, including browsing, sharing, approval, annotation, and delivery for any authorized users worldwide from any web browser.

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