Have You Ever Used Tape Storage

As long as it is related to technology, "never say impossible" to technologies that seem to be outdated. When one day there is a "change of Dynasty", it may "make a comeback", or even become more usable or attractive, and become a good way to solve new problems.

It can't be true? Are we stepping into the time machine now? Everyone knows that "tape" is... "Antique" technology! Don't all storage applications now use solid state disk (SSD) or hard disk drive (HDD) memory?

The answer is not exactly right. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal - "companies look to an old technology to protect against new threats", it is mentioned that many companies store data on tape again in case. This is not just an anecdote: there are some powerful data certificates in the market, the unit shipment of tape has increased, and more and more data is stored on tape.

Although tape is not as easy to access as SSD or HDD memory, this attribute is also an advantage, especially when the "worst" situation occurs, it can show its strong and slow recovery mechanism. In addition, because tapes cannot be "online", hackers are unlikely to access them. The Wall Street Journal article pointed out that "the government, financial services companies, medical insurance companies and other regulated industries still use tape as a backup system for digital records. Now, some companies are turning back to tape technology because hackers are becoming more and more powerful in penetrating their preventive measures."

If you still stick to the old idea that tape is a large volume of disk, it is really out of date; In fact, there are only some archive disks left, and we are lucky to find the playback device. At present, the tape industry has standardized on the easy-to-use tape cartridge, so that it can play and rewind through the manipulator under the large array configuration of the tape drive "field", as shown in the table. Even with the assistance of the international tape storage Council, some standards began to appear, focusing on defining overall dimensions and formats, etc. Tape storage Council is an industry organization established in 2012 to promote the technological innovation and application of tape storage industry.

Modern tape drives (lto-7) can be equipped with backup and restore performance up to 750mb / S (2.7tb / HR), and each cartridge can support 15tb of data (source: quantum Corp.)

Two key criteria: ltfs and LTO

The two key standards of tape technology are linear tape file system (ltfs) - which can make tape "almost" like HDD; And the linear tape open (LTO) standard developed in the late 1990s as an alternative to the then proprietary tape format. In the "technology advances promote tape to new markets" report recently published by the tape storage Council, it briefly describes the latest progress and application of tape technology.

The comparison of tape with SDD or HDD is not limited to security; The tape storage Council believes that reliability and bit error rate (BER) also deserve attention. As shown in the figure below, the quantum lto-7 has an error every 1019 bits, while the HDD of the top gauge has an average error of 1016 bits. The difference of up to three orders of magnitude is really impressive. Other performance comparisons between tape and HDD are also noteworthy, and may even break the traditional myth.

Comparing different data storage media shows that high-performance tape provides the lowest bit error rate, even 1000 times better than other technologies (source: tape storage Council)

The tape system is also a miniature analog signal and wireless transmission link, even if the stored data is digital. In many ways, it is similar to RF channel, except that RF is replaced by magnetic field for energy transmission. In addition, it also has all the problems that affect the RF "wireless" link, such as jitter, signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), inter symbol interference, signal strength change and so on.

Of course, the reading channel starts with the analog preamplifier (installed as close to the reading head itself as possible) and the variable gain amplifier (VGA). But that is only the beginning of analog signal processing, because advanced tape systems use read channels with partial response, maximum likelihood (PRML) signal detection circuits to maximize the chance of successful and zero error data restoration (although the channel is irregular). Although the physical scale may be much smaller than the RF link, the signal path blocks are similar.

There seems to be a development element contrary to "going back to the future". Tape is not only the first high-density data storage mechanism (much earlier than HDD), but also an early "amateur" - personal computers (PCS) use Philips Consumer audio tape cartridges as low-cost storage media (of course, low-speed and low-capacity), load the operating system and store programs and data through the "boot loader". Today, tape is not cost-effective for hobbies and business applications, especially high-density HDDs, which are more affordable and random access, but potential tape technology still plays a vital role - and even the trend of "comeback".

As usual, I would like to reiterate once again: as long as it is related to technology, it is "never impossible" to say what seems to be outdated technology. When one day the "dynasty changes", it may "reappear in the Jianghu", or even become more usable or attractive, and become a good way to solve new problems.

Have you used advanced LTO / ltfs tape technology? Or have you ever used tape storage before?

Have You Ever Used Tape Storage 1

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