IBM Tape Library Handles 2.7 Exabytes

The IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library uses shuttle technology that connects multiple tape libraries to create a single, high-capacity library complex.

Chandler Harris

May 9, 2011

3 Min Read
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Tape storage, often pronounced dead or dying, is in fact thriving as more companies need to backup and store massive amounts of data and digital archives, according to IBM. Which is why the company on Monday introduced a range of storage products, including its first tape library system that provides 2.7 exabytes of storage.

The IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library supports a new 4-TB tape cartridge called the TS1140. It includes new IBM shuttle technology, which is a mechanical attachment that connects multiple tape libraries to create a single, high-capacity library complex, which can manage up to 2.7 exabytes, or four times the capacity of its previous generation model. The TS1140 drives in the new TS3500 are backward compatible, allowing older and newer tape-based cartridges to be used. The big draw is the unit holds enough memory to hold three times the mobile data generated in the U.S. in 2010, IBM said.

Why such a massive, tape-based memory storage? Even with solid-state and disk-based storage continuing to grow, IBM said tape storage is gaining new opportunities due to the increase of digital archives being created. Currently, 75% of large companies still use tape, IBM said. If so, it's only going to get better for tape storage, as the amount of digital archives stored to tape is set to experience a six fold increase from 2010 through to 2015, according to Enterprise Strategy Group.

"As we talked with different customers from lots of different industries, we found they are collecting lots of data and frequently collect large objects such as scanned images, videos, medical images, etc., and they are keeping them for a long time and therefore end up with a large aggregate capacity," said Clod Barrera, distinguished engineer for IBM storage, in an interview.

IBM also announced the release of the IBM System Storage TS1140 Tape Drive, which uses up to 64% less energy due to the implementation of fewer and more efficient components. To go along with the products, IBM also unveiled new tape storage software, the BM Linear Tape File System Library Edition (LTFS LE) that helps manage massive archives of data and digital assets. The LTFS enables users to index, search, retrieve, and share data stored on Generation 5 LTO tape, an open tape storage format.

The usefulness of tape storage to backup data was made evident earlier this year, when Google announced a small number of Gmail users were unable to access their email messages, due to a software glitch. While the email data was wiped out, Google engineers were able to retrieve the data from backup tape storage.

Tape and disk storage can be used simultaneously for a tiered storage system that enables organizations to store data based on priority, or how frequently it is accessed. Tape storage is ideal for archives and data that is not accessed often, since the cost per GB, performance and reliability and shelf life of tape make it an ideal complement to disk backup.

"As more and more data is saved and the access density of that data becomes quite low, tape is by far the most cost effective and foot print economical way to store data," Barrera said. "As our client's requirements continue to grow, we see customers with a larger data footprint."

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