Tape drive/library trends: LTO surges

Posted on August 01, 2005

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Credit a healthy tape market to the popularity of LTO, IT initiatives such as compliance, and applications such as ILM.

By Dave Simpson

Despite the inexorable trend toward disk-based backup and recovery, the tape market is surprisingly resilient, although there are signs of a slowdown after 2004’s impressive recovery year. For example, tape library revenues grew 13.5% last year (to almost $2 billion), but that rate is expected to decline to about 7% this year, according to Freeman Reports, a tape market research firm in Ojai, CA. In terms of unit shipments, the tape library market is expected to grow about 10% this year.

Tape drive/library sales continue to grow for several reasons, according to Bob Abraham, president of Freeman Reports. For one, virtually all backup/recovery operations still include tape, although tape’s role is shifting from a primary backup role to a strictly archival role. And certain applications-most notably, compliance and information life-cycle management (ILM)-are driving the need for tape, particularly for tape formats with write-once, read-many (WORM) functionality in the case of compliance.

In terms of tape formats, the market continues to be driven by users’ insatiable appetite for LTO drives/libraries. According to Freeman’s recently released Compact Tape Outlook-2005 report, which covers the tape drive market, LTO accounted for more than 70% of the midrange “super drive” (100GB per cartridge or more) unit shipments last year, followed by Super DLT (SDLT) with a 23.2% share and AIT/SAIT at 5.5% (see figure, below).

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Among super drive manufacturers, Hewlett-Packard (LTO-1, -2, -3) led the pack with a 36.2% market share, followed by IBM (LTO-1, -2, -3), Quantum (SDLT 220, 320, 600), Sony (AIT-3, -4, SAIT), and Certance (LTO-1, -2, -3), which was acquired by Quantum last year.

In the LTO segment, IBM (48.2% market share) and Hewlett-Packard (46.6%) are battling it out for dominance, while Certance/Quantum accounted for 5.2% of LTO revenues last year.

In the overall compact tape drive market-which includes super drive formats as well as digital audio tape (DAT), cartridge, and 8mm formats-DAT held on to its lion’s share of unit shipments with 45.7% (863,000 units) of the market last year, followed by LTO, DLT/SDLT, cartridge, 8mm, and SAIT (see figure, below).

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Not surprisingly, the LTO and DLT/SDLT formats are expected to increase in market share, while DAT, 8mm, and cartridge drives lose market share.

Library format shifts

Market projections for the tape library market roughly follow the trends in the tape drive market. For example, LTO-based libraries accounted for more than 73% of all tape library shipments last year, followed by DLT/SDLT at a 16.2% market share (see figure, below). Shipments of LTO libraries surged 28% last year, while revenues increased by 23% to almost $1 billion (45,568 unit shipments).

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StorageTek, which is being acquired by Sun, held on to its dominant market position in tape libraries last year with a 38% share of overall revenues, followed by IBM, ADIC, Overland Storage, Quantum, Fujitsu, Spectra Logic, and Sony. Seven “other” vendors accounted for the remaining 2% of the tape library market (see figure, below).

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Although tape library revenues jumped 13% in 2004, unit shipments increased by only 0.1% over 2003 shipments. Freeman Reports’ Abraham attributes this apparent dichotomy in part to an end-user shift to higher capacity, higher-cost libraries-particularly those based on the LTO and half-inch cartridge formats-driven by consolidation projects and growth in networked storage.

Abraham says that competition from disk-to-disk (D2D) backup did not materially contribute to the weak unit shipment figures for tape libraries last year. Going forward, Abraham predicts that any potential damage done to the tape market by the D2D alternative will be more than offset by increased sales of libraries driven by compliance and ILM projects.

High-end tape libraries based on half-inch cartridges comprised only 2.1% of unit shipments last year, but accounted for 31% of overall tape library revenues. Manufacturers of half-inch tape libraries include StorageTek (the revenue market share leader with a 60.2% slice), IBM (34.7%), Fujitsu (4.9%), and ADIC (0.2%).

Debunking myths

In addition to the reasons stated by Abraham, another reason why the tape market is still healthy may be that tape isn’t as bad as it’s cracked up to be. For example, many disk-based backup vendors claim that as much as 30% to 50% of tape-based backups fail. However, in an InfoStor reader survey, users were asked what percentage of their backups fail, and about 15% of the respondents said that their backups never fail, and more than three-fourths (75.7%) said that less than 10% of their backups fail. A minority (11.3%) said that their backups fail more than 10% of the time (see figure, below).

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In the same survey, 26.8% of the users attributed the failures to media, while 21% said that human error was the main culprit. Only about 16% of the users pinned the blame on hardware failure, while almost 20% cited software failures and 16% cited network failures as the primary reason why backups failed.

And 35% of the surveyed readers plan to purchase more tape over the next 12 months, compared to only 12% who plan to purchase less tape.

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A survey conducted by the Enterprise Strategy Group (Tape Replacement Realities) indicates that end users are not as dissatisfied with tape as might be expected. For example, 37% were “very satisfied,” 49% “satisfied,” 10% “somewhat satisfied,” and only 4% “dissatisfied.” However, those same survey respondents noted a number of challenges associated with enterprise tape backup systems (see figure, above).

What’s cheaper?

Another questionable claim made by a few disk-based backup vendors is that disk-or at least ATA/SATA-based D2D backup-is cheaper than tape. Not true.

For example, the Data Mobility Group research/consulting firm recently did a study (Is tape really cheaper than disk?) that compares the long-term costs of disk and tape and concluded that tape can be significantly less expensive than disk (although there are a number of caveats with all such comparisons).

Specifically, Data Mobility Group senior analyst Dianne McAdam compared the costs associated with an LTO-2 tape library to a Serial ATA (SATA) disk subsystem. The comparison assumed a company that needs to store 50TB of backup data over seven years. Other assumptions included a capacity growth of 20% per year, 85% utilization for tape media, and 70% utilization of disk.

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The detailed comparison also took into account factors such as tape compression ratios, initial hardware costs, ongoing maintenance costs, environmental costs (floor space, electricity, etc.), and other factors.

In this example, Data Mobility Group’s conclusion was that the tape-based solution was 11% less expensive than the disk-based backup one.

The report’s simplified conclusion said: “If low cost is an IT organization’s highest priority, tape is the logical choice. However, if quick access is more important than overall cost, disk may be the better choice.” (For the full report, visit www.datamobili tygroup.com.)

Compliance = WORM

As Freeman Reports’ Abraham stated, another reason for growth in the tape market is that tape is conducive to meeting regulatory compliance requirements, in part because of its long-term archiving capabilities and in part because of the non-rewritable, non-erasable WORM functionality available with some tape formats. (WORM is also available in a variety of disk-based systems, such as content-addressed storage [CAS] as well as optical libraries.)

WORM has been available with tape formats from vendors such as IBM (3592), Quantum (SDLT 600 with DLTIce), Sony (AIT-3, AIT-4, SAIT), and StorageTek (9840 and 9940) for some time, and more recently became available with LTO-3 tape drives/libraries from vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Quantum, as well as LTO-3 libraries from vendors such as Overland Storage.

(Besides Sony, tape libraries based on AIT and SAIT drives are available from library vendors such as Breece Hill, Qualstar, and Spectra Logic. In addition to Quantum, libraries based on SDLT drives are available from vendors such as ADIC, Breece Hill, Overland, Qualstar, Spectra Logic, and StorageTek. And ADIC sells libraries based on StorageTek’s 9840 and 9940 drives.)

Unlike some other vendors’ approaches, Quantum’s WORM functionality does not require users to purchase separate WORM cartridges. WORM capabilities are available with Quantum’s standard SDLT II tape media and SDLT 600 drives at no extra cost.

(For more information on WORM tape and compliance, see “Tape market WORMs its way to new growth,” InfoStor, April 2005, p. 1.)


TECH TIPS: When you need encryption (and when you don’t)
By Jack Scott

Complex systems are difficult to secure against malicious attack. The IT industry is addressing perimeter security, but is doing relatively little to protect the data itself. In the wake of many highly publicized thefts of sensitive privacy information, several state governments and the federal government are considering legislation patterned after California’s Security Breach Disclosure Law (SB 1386), which went into effect in mid-2003.

Well-intentioned legislators are driving the industry toward encryption as a panacea against theft of private data. However, there is no single panacea, and your encryption strategy needs to be carefully reasoned. Encryption is at best a double-edged sword because key security is the lynchpin of its future effectiveness. Lose the keys and you lose the records.

Not surprisingly, there has been a proliferation of encryption techniques and vendors. Microsoft offers a 128-bit “high-encryption” package. Network Appliance recently acquired Decru, a leading vendor of tape/disk encryption appliances. Seagate announced that it will provide encryption for disk drives. And the proliferation of smaller vendors with encryption products continues to grow. In addition to Decru, examples include Applied Research, EVault, Intradyn, Kasten Chase, NeoScale, and Vormetric.

This Tech Tip discusses when records should and shouldn’t be encrypted.

Records should be encrypted when

  • Data will be “in-flight” by wireless, wire, or truck. The concept is fairly well established for transmitted data, but we are just beginning to learn that trucks full of tapes can be heisted or boxes of cartridges can be “lost;”
  • Primary data “at rest” is network accessible (assume that it will be hacked);
  • It is necessary to comply with the various regulations and/or business policy; and
  • There is a policy and practice to secure the keys. Companies must have a designated individual who signs for custodial responsibility of the keys, and the keys need to be in escrow in three locations. When that individual leaves, there must be a formal succession procedure. At least once a year keys must be withdrawn from each vault and verified. Commercial enterprises, like the military, need a trusted “crypto officer” and a backup to be custodian of the keys.

Records should not be encrypted when

  • They are stored in archives that are not network accessible. If records are sensitive then they qualify for encryption under rule one above (data in flight) when they are retrieved;
  • They were previously encrypted. Although it might work technically, cascading layers of encryption creates a huge decrypting challenge. This could become significant with the new Seagate drives;
  • No formal policy exists to ensure key security. Assume you will lose the keys and therefore the records; and
  • There is no need-for example, when the data is not sensitive or cannot be linked to a sensitive designator (such as name, account number, social security number, etc.). Properly filtered data warehouses qualify if they have been stripped of any personal identifiers.

Jack Scott is a senior partner and founder of the Evaluator Group Inc. (www.evalu atorgroup.com), a Denver-based storage research analysis firm.


Tape-related product announcements

Most of the tape-related announcements this summer focused on the small to medium-sized business (SMB) market. For example, Sony began shipments of an SAIT-1-based mini library for SMBs that packs 10TB of native capacity (26TB assuming 2.6:1 compression) in a 5U form factor. Two models are available, with the higher-end library including two SAIT-1 tape drives and up to 20 500GB SAIT cartridges. The sustained native transfer rate with two drives is 60MBps.

A key feature of Sony’s SAIT technology is its write-once, read-many (WORM) functionality, which is becoming increasingly popular due to regulatory compliance requirements. To boost security even further, the SAIT-1 library includes a password-protected electromagnetic lock and a mechanical key lock.

The mini library comes with an Ultra SCSI connection, but can be linked to Fibre Channel SANs via a SCSI-to-FC bridge.

A single-drive library (CSM-20S/S1) is priced at $17,995, while the dual-drive version (CSM-20S/S1-2) is priced at $25,990.

Hewlett-Packard is targeting SMBs with a number of tape product lines introduced this summer, including digital audio tape (DAT) drives with USB 2.0 interfaces, half-height LTO Ultrium 1 tape drives, and LTO Ultrium autoloaders.

The StorageWorks DAT 72 USB drive ($749) has a capacity of 72GB per cartridge and a transfer rate of 23GB per hour assuming 2:1 compression. The DAT 40 USB ($599) is a DDS-4 drive that stores 40GB per cartridge with a transfer rate of 23GB per hour assuming 2:1 compression.

HP also added the half-height StorageWorks Ultrium 232 tape drive to its lineup of LTO format drives. With a 2:1 compression ratio, the drives store 200GB per cartridge and can back up at 115GB per hour. Pricing starts at $1,799.

New versions of HP’s 1/8 Tape Autoloader include the 2U Ultrium 960 version (6.4TB with compression) and Ultrium 448 version (3.2TB). The Ultrium 960 model has a 576GB-per-hour transfer rate. The Ultrium 960 autoloader and Ultrium 448 are priced from $7,499 and $5,299, respectively.

Exabyte recently began shipments of three new libraries. The 221L Plus is an LTO-3 library with a native Fibre Channel interface, which eliminates the need for a bridge/router. Features include two LTO-3 drives, up to 21 cartridges, capacity up to 16.8TB, and a data-transfer speed of more than 1.1TB per hour. Also available with a SCSI host interface and LTO-1 or LTO-2 drives, the 221L Plus ranges from $7,200 for an LTO-1 version with SCSI (or $8,100 with Fibre Channel) to $13,500 for an LTO-3 version with a SCSI interface (or $17,300 for a Fibre Channel version).

The Magnum 1x7 LTO autoloader includes one LTO-3 drive and seven cartridge slots. Capacity ranges up to 5.6TB in a 2U form factor, and the autoloader has a transfer rate of up to 576GB per hour. Equipped with an LTO-2 drive, the autoloader is priced at about $5,000, and with an LTO-3 drive, $7,000.

Exabyte’s VXA-2 PacketLoader 1x10 is a 1U unit with up to 1.6TB and a 43.2GB-per-hour transfer rate. The VXA autoloader holds 10 tape cartridges and comes with either a SCSI LVD or FireWire 800 interface. Pricing ranges from $1,500 with a VXA-1 drive to $2,300 with a VXA-2 drive for SCSI versions. A VXA-3 model is expected to be announced next month.

Tandberg Data is shipping a 1U autoloader with half-height LTO-2 tape drives. The LTO StorageLoader delivers up to 3.2TB of compressed capacity and has a transfer rate of up to 173GB per hour. The device includes up to eight cartridges in two removable magazines and comes with an Ultra 160 SCSI/LVD interface. MSRP is $4,499.

Tape stalwarts StorageTek and Quantum both introduced backup-and-recovery services this summer. StorageTek’s ViaRemote service provides centralized, automated off-site backup for remote offices, mobile users, or enterprises with distributed data. The services are delivered via a partnership with Arsenal Digital Solutions through StorageTek’s Remote Managed Storage services.

This month, Quantum introduced StorageCare Guardian, a remote monitoring and diagnostic service for Quantum’s tape and disk-based backup customers. The proactive monitoring checks for errors and predicts potential failures. The service, available at no charge, covers Quantum’s PX720 tape libraries and DX30/DX100 disk-based backup systems.

UK-based DISUK is shipping a bundled configuration for SMBs, called SafeTape, that includes the company’s Paranoia2 tape encryption appliance with a backup tape reader/writer. For more information on encryption, see “When you need encryption (and when you don’t),” p. 30.


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