Fujifilm, the biggest manufacturer of Linear Tape-Open (LTO) tape cartridges, has launched software that allows storage arrays to move their contents to tape libraries while retaining access via the S3 object storage protocol. The product will be called Software Defined Tape in Europe and Object Archive in the US.
“Object storage arrays are increasingly popular for archiving,” said Fujifilm’s engineering head, Christopher Kehoe. “But this solution can be costly because you have to keep adding capacity as the archive grows. Tape is still the most economical solution. And, tape libraries haven’t interfaced with software that writes in object storage mode. But now that has changed, thanks to our software.”
“Object storage arrays can be attacked by ransomware that destroys their contents,” said Reza Etemad, Fujifilm’s commercial director, during an IT Press Tour online presentation. “That can’t happen with tape libraries because they aren’t accessible except for the time they are accessed.”
In principle, Fujifilm’s idea is the exact reverse of a virtual tape library (VTL) which simulates the writing of data in LTO format but which physically commits data to hard drives.
Fujifilm isn’t the first to come up with software that can migrate data from S3 disk to tape. Tape library maker Spectra Logic already has its Black Pearl product. But, what’s new in the Fujifilm product is that the data is held in a new data format, the OTFormat, which interweaves data and metadata on the tape so that restored data is immediately reusable by an S3-compatible array, in the cloud or on-premise.
“We have made OTFormat Open Source, so that others can restore data without necessarily passing through our software,” said Kehoe.
OTFormat aims at the same objective as LTFS, a file system launched in 2011 to allow the handling of tape contents as if they were on a hard drive. Back then, the aim of LTFS was to facilitate direct restoration of files to NAS.
Software Defined Tape/Object Archive is deployed on a server that drives the LTO tape library. It carries out a dual function. On the network side it presents itself as a new tier of S3 storage ready to receive data from another array, according to rules written by the admin.
The Fujifilm deployment doesn’t store the data it receives locally. It converts it to OTFormat before writing to the tape library. However, Software Defined Tape/Object Archive does keep a local cache in which it retains S3 metadata.
“In this way, data doesn’t disappear from the network. If a user wants to look at something, Software Defined Tape will receive the request and command the library to restore the necessary files,” said Kehoe.
Etemad said the Fujifilm software puts tape libraries back at the heart of archiving in the datacentre, by abolishing the only constraint from which they have suffered. Namely, that they are not compatible with S3.
“According to studies we have carried out, 80% of backed up data is never reopened, so there’s no point keeping it on hard drives that consume 90 times the power of an LTO library and occupy more space,” said Etemad, who contrasted it with the IBM TS4300 tape library, which can hold 480TB in 40 LTO-8 tape cartridges in 3U of rackspace while a disk array of similar physical size would maybe hold two thirds of that.