Tape trends

By Dave Simpson

As always, the main trend in the tape market is the inexorable march toward higher capacity and faster transfer rates, a trend exemplified by the imminent arrival of LTO-4 tape drives, libraries, and media.

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The Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Program announced the availability of licenses for the LTO Ultrium tape format generation 4 (LTO-4) specifications in January. (The LTO Program consists of Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Quantum, although Tandberg also manufactures LTO drives.)

Estimates vary, and are vendor-dependent, but you can expect LTO-4 libraries from a number of vendors to ship over the next couple of months—although volume may be limited by drive supplies from the primary drive manufacturers). IBM, Qualstar, and Spectra Logic, for example, were expected to begin shipments of LTO-4 tape libraries this month.

LTO-4 provides a native capacity of 800GB (1.6TB assuming 2:1 compression), representing a doubling of LTO-3’s 400GB native capacity per cartridge (see figure on p. 1). The native transfer rate of LTO-4 drives is 120MBps (240MBps compressed), compared to 80MBps for LTO-3. A native transfer rate of 120MBps roughly translates into a backup rate of 864GB per hour.

The doubled capacity and increased transfer rate of LTO-4 will enable companies to better manage their backup windows, reduce space consumption in data centers, improve library utilization, and reduce the amount of tape handling by administrators and robotics mechanisms.

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LTO-4 will continue to support the write-once, read-many (WORM) functionality that debuted in LTO-3 products. And LTO-4 will be backward read/write-compatible with LTO-3 cartridges, and backward read-compatible with LTO-2 cartridges.

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In addition to the capacity and speed improvements, as well as WORM support, LTO-4 will for the first time support 256-bit hardware-based AES encryption (see below).

The introduction of LTO-4 is expected to cement the format’s dominance in the midrange tape market. LTO-based tape libraries accounted for approximately 88% of the shipments of midrange libraries last year, up from about an 84% market share the previous year (see figure, above). That translates into more than 55,000 LTO libraries shipped in 2006 and revenues of about $1.26 billion.

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LTO library/autoloader manufacturers include Breece Hill, Fujitsu, IBM, Overland Storage, Qualstar, Quantum, Spectra Logic, Sun/StorageTek, and Tandberg (which acquired tape drive/library manufacturer Exabyte last year). LTO media manufacturers include vendors such as Fujifilm, Imation, Maxell, Sony, and TDK.

For more information on LTO technology and products, visit www.ultrium.com.

But tape format “speed and feeds” aren’t the only trends in the tape market. Other trends include increased use of WORM technology due to the need to meet data-retention requirements and other compliance regulations and, perhaps more importantly, a variety of options for tape encryption.


WORM functionality is becoming available on an increasing number of tape formats, including LTO-3 and LTO-4, half-inch tape cartridges from vendors such as IBM and Sun/StorageTek, Quantum’s DLT line, and most AIT versions, including the most recent generation—AIT-5—which has a native capacity of 400GB per cartridge and a native transfer rate of 24MBps.

WORM can be enabled either through the selection of the unrecorded media, or by specifying the writing mode of the cartridge at the time of initial cartridge insertion. Most vendors take the former approach, which means that users require specialized media for WORM functionality. WORM media typically carries a 5% to 10% price premium.

Quantum’s DLTIce technology is an exception to this rule, in that it does not require specialized media. Essentially, DLTIce software, which is supported by firmware in DLT tape drives, provides the ability to lock a tape cartridge as a WORM device. Creating a WORM cartridge involves writing a unique electronic key that cannot be altered on the DLTtape cartridge. The identifier creates a tamper-proof archive cartridge. Once turned into a WORM cartridge, the media cannot be erased or reformatted.


The availability of native, drive-level hardware encryption on LTO-4 drives—which is unique among midrange tape formats—is expected to spark further interest in encryption. However, there are a number of other options available.

Outside of what is generally regarded as the midrange tape segment, IBM and Sun/StorageTek offer native, drive-level encryption on some of their half-inch tape products.

And Spectra Logic has since late 2005 offered hardware-based, library-level encryption (which is unique among tape library vendors). The hardware part of Spectra Logic’s AES 256-bit encryption scheme is based on encryption chips from Hifn that run on Quad Interface Processors (QIPs), which are I/O blades that plug into Spectra Logic’s tape libraries. Key management, and other encryption-related functions, is handled by the company’s BlueScale management software.

Although debates about where to encrypt might ensue, Bob Abraham, president of the Freeman Reports tape market research firm, says that “there is no particular advantage to native drive-level encryption vs. encryption at the library level in terms of performance or security.”

But even Spectra Logic notes that there are advantages to drive-level encryption outside of performance and security. “The best way to do encryption is in the drive, in part because you’ll have universally interchangeable tapes [as opposed to being locked into a single vendors’ encryption method,]” says Nathan Thompson, Spectra Logic’s CEO.

When LTO-4 drives with encryption become available, Spectra Logic will use the drive-level encryption for LTO-4 cartridges, but will continue to use its own encryption method for previous LTO generations. In either case, the company’s key management will depend on its BlueScale Encryption management software. (A Standard Edition of BlueScale Encryption software is free, while a Professional Edition is priced from $12,000 and includes extra layers of security, compression, and support for multiple keys.)

Peri Grover, Overland Storage’s director of product management, tape automation, agrees that key management will be a critical factor in end-user adoption of encryption, but she disagrees about where the key management should come from.

“Some users get nervous about key management, and that can be a gating factor to adoption of encryption,” says Grover. “We think that key management should come from the ISVs [CA, CommVault, EMC, Symantec, etc.] so the question will be whether the ISVs support key management when the LTO-4 drives with encryption come out. They’re all working on it.”

In the context of LTO-4 drive encryption, it is important to note that the LTO-4 specification does not require encryption; it just enables a standardized method of accomplishing it. As such, don’t be surprised if some of the early versions of LTO-4 tape drives do not include encryption.

Also, it is expected that drive-level encryption will carry a price premium, although it’s unclear at this time how steep the premium will be.

Other encryption options include dedicated, stand-alone appliances such as those from Decru and NeoScale. These appliances provide high-speed encryption and sophisticated key management, although they are relatively expensive.

Yet—another alternative is a recently introduced appliance from Crossroads Systems. At last month’s Storage Networking World conference, Crossroads introduced the StrongBox TapeSentry encryption appliance, which includes front-end compression. Differentiating it from other stand-alone encryption appliances, TapeSentry is based on Crossroads’ core router engine, providing full router functionality. The company claims wire-speed encryption.

Other features of the TapeSentry encryption appliance include multi-streaming for LTO-3 tape drives, four 4Gbps Fibre Channel ports (which can be configured in any combination of host or device connections), AES-256 encryption algorithm, role-based user management, an audit log, support for access controls with user-defined encryption policies, key management and security, crypto-signed logging, pass-through for non-encrypted I/O, buffered tape writes and inquiry caching, and support for heterogeneous (multiple formats) tape environments. The appliances are priced at approximately $25,500.

And, of course, users have the option of software-based encryption, which is available with many backup applications. The key advantage of hardware-based encryption versus software-based encryption is that it is faster and does not consume host resources.

Related articles:

  • Tape market update: LTO the only bright spot
  • Why integrate tape and disk?
  • IBM ships LTO-4, broadens encryption

    IDC predicts rapid growth for DPRM

    By Ann Silverthorn
    A recent report from International Data Corp. (IDC) predicts that the worldwide data protection and recovery management (DPRM) market will grow from $58 million in 2006 to $200 million by 2011, representing a 28% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

    The report, Worldwide Data Protection and Recovery Management 2007-2011 Forecast and Analysis: Who’s Who and Why It Matters, was written by Laura DuBois, IDC’s research director for storage software. “DPRM in the context of monitoring, reporting, and management of heterogeneous data-protection environments has seen continued adoption as firms deal with the challenges of meeting compressed service level agreements (SLAs), improving reliability and performance, managing storage costs, and dealing with compliance and corporate governance,” according to the report.

    DuBois defines DPRM offerings as providing a global view of backup products, configurations, jobs, and assets. “DPRM products provide environmental statistics such as performance, utilization, success and failure data and, in many ways, provide functionality or information missing from the native backup application itself,” according to DuBois. Although typically deployed in tape-based backup environments, DPRM products are increasingly being used in disk-based backup environments, or in mixed tape/disk environments.

    To gather relevant backup data, DPRM products use native backup application interfaces, application programming interfaces (APIs), or command line interfaces (CLIs) to collect backup data. Once collected, the DPRM product attempts to normalize and/or parse the data, store it, and present it visually with graphical interfaces or reports.

    As disk-based data protection becomes more popular, organizations will consolidate backup systems, but will also be left with heterogeneous data-protection configurations, which will necessitate “tools that can monitor, report on, and manage heterogeneous data protection configurations,” according to the report.

    In addition, to comply with government regulations and to streamline e-discovery, corporations demand stricter protection and recovery policies. IT departments may need to provide proof to auditors that data is adequately protected and can be recovered.

    DPRM is not just for IT managers anymore. Capacity managers, for example, are using it to make better buying decisions. This means that reports should be accessible by both the technical and the business side of the organization.

    Use cases for DPRM include backup performance tuning, troubleshooting, SLA monitoring, asset and configuration management, risk mitigation, chargeback and billing, and cost management.

    Market drivers for DPRM products include heterogeneous backup environments, IT governance, electronic discovery on tape, disk-based data protection, focus on SLAs, and cost management, containment, and chargeback. Market inhibitors include consolidation of backup applications, integration of functions into storage grids, and adoption of common data-protection frameworks.

    DuBois says that IT managers should consider the breadth of third-party application support; implementation time, and overhead; support for replicas, snapshots, and clones; ease of use; and functionality. The report examines DPRM products from the following vendors: Agite Software AG, Aptare, Bocada, CA, Hewlett-Packard, Servergraph, Sun Microsystems, Symantec, Tek-Tools, and WysDM.

    For more details on IDC’s 31-page report, visit www.idc.com.

    Tracking tapes via RFID

    Last month, Imation introduced a new twist on the old task of tracking tape cartridges. The company’s DataGuard rf Tape Tracking System uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which enables administrators to monitor and track tape cartridges.

    Administrators affix RFID-enabled labels to each tape cartridge in order to “check in” and “check out” cartridges via entry and exit workstations. The cartridges are then tracked with B&L Associates’ VaultLedger or Vertices software.

    The RFID tags include printed volume-and-serial number, or “Volser,” id labels that are encrypted for security. Scan Stations couple a label reader with an antenna pad. The tracking system also includes a mobile scanner version of the Scan Stations.

    The tape tracking system is designed to address the issues surrounding lost or stolen tapes, as well as compliance requirements.

    Future enhancements include an assisted global positioning system (AGPS), which will allow users to track the location of tapes using cellular and GPS technology.

    38TB in a 4U form factor

    At the Storage Networking World conference last month, Overland Storage unveiled the latest in its line of ARCvault tape libraries. The 4U ARCvault 48 has 48 LTO-3 cartridges for a total capacity of 38TB with an MSRP of $13,500 for a single-drive configuration. (Actual pricing is dependent on Overland’s resellers.)

    The ARCvault 48 can be configured with up to four SCSI-based LTO-3 drives or two Fibre Channel-based LTO-3 drives. An Automatic Drive Interface (ADI) feature simplifies connectivity. In addition, users can partition the library into two distinct libraries, enabling use of the library across multiple platforms or applications. The ARCvault libraries can be coupled to Overland’s Ultamus RAID arrays and REO line of disk-based backup appliances.

    Tape media market update

    In the fourth quarter of 2006 (the most recent period for which data is available), the total tape cartridge market posted revenues of $344.56 million, according to the Santa Clara Consulting Group.

    LTO was the largest segment of the overall market, with sales of almost $223 million and unit shipments of more than six-million cartridges. LTO-3 accounted for 39% of unit shipments and 55% of revenues. However, sales of LTO-2 cartridges were also up, accounting for 47% of unit shipments and 36% of revenues. Hewlett-Packard led this market segment with a 27.2% market share, followed by Fuji, according to the Santa Clara Consulting Group.

    Surprisingly, the aging DDS tape cartridge market experienced moderate growth, to 3.41 million units, with the DAT-72 format pacing the growth. DAT-72 accounted for 29% of unit shipments and 53% of revenues. Hewlett-Packard led the DDS market segment with a 46.4% market share. The DDS cartridge market topped $22 million in revenues.

    The DLT market is segmented into two lines: the DLT-S (“Super”) and DLT-V (“Value”) product categories. In the fourth quarter, DLT-V media sales totaled 790,000 units, representing revenues of $22.17 million. Hewlett-Packard led this segment, followed by Fuji. Shipments of DLT-S tape cartridges fell just shy of one-million units, with HP leading the market, followed by Quantum and Fuji.

    In Q4 2006, 550,000 AIT cartridges were shipped, mostly by AIT developer Sony, which has a 94.1% market share.

    Although the market for QIC cartridges is dwindling, they still represented about $13.25 million in revenues on shipments of 360,000 cartridges. Imation commands the QIC market with an 88% share.

    Tiered platforms combine backup, archive

    At last month’s Storage Networking World conference, Spectra Logic launched a new line of platforms under the nTier brand that combines archive and backup in a disk-based Serial ATA (SATA) appliance. In addition to unified backup and archive functionality, the platforms include a file system interface and the ability to search, categorize, and retrieve archived information. nTier platforms can be combined with the company’s tape and RXT removable disk products.

    Additional features include RAID 6, power monitoring and reduced energy consumption, an integrated application server, tiered storage services, and software functions such as data de-duplication, encryption, replication, and “near” continuous data protection (CDP). Capacity ranges from 2TB to 60TB per frame, and frames can be racked together for up to 480TB of capacity. Shipments are slated for this summer.

    This article was originally published on May 01, 2007