Oracle Boosts Tape to Exabyte (Per Library) Level

While the Tape is Dead Marching Band and Chowder Society was still celebrating Imation's plant closure, Oracle decided to rain on their parade by announcing a new version of its T10000 enterprise tape system with a native capacity of 5TBytes per cartridge. Since its largest SL8500 library can be built with 100,000 slots, and 640 drives, Oracle is claiming to have built the first exabyte storage system, with compression.

Howard Marks

February 7, 2011

3 Min Read
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While the Tape is Dead Marching Band and Chowder Society was still celebrating Imation's plant closure, Oracle decided to rain on their parade by announcing a new version of its T10000 enterprise tape system with a native capacity of 5TBytes per cartridge. Since its largest SL8500 library can be built with 100,000 slots, and 640 drives, Oracle is claiming to have built the first exabyte storage system, with compression.

While tape is fading as a direct backup medium, there are still plenty of customers that find tape systems' low cost per petabyte, high density of storage on the data center floor and low cost of long-time retention attractive. Organizations are now storing more data--such as medical and check images that don't dedupe well--for many years in their archive systems.

Tape is also still a major part of many high-performance computing applications, such as particle accelerators that can generate petabytes of data in a matter of minutes and then take weeks or months to analyze it.

The new T10000C re-establishes the capacity and performance gap between the high duty cycle enterprise drives made by StorageTek/Sun/Oracle and IBM and the more mainstream Linear Tape-Open (LTO) drives that mere mortals doing disk to disk to tape backup use. This gap had been closing as both classes hit the 1TByte mark.

The T10000C drives use a Fujifilm-developed barium ferrite (BaFe) medium with particles significantly smaller than those of LTO or other current technologies. Since Fujifilm and IBM announced last year that they were jointly developing a demonstration project that will store 35TBytes on a single BaFe tape, I expect IBM will be announcing an enterprise tape drive in the 4TByte to 5TByte range in the next few months.  BaFe is an attractive material for tape because, unlike the metal particle media used in today's leading tape systems, it's chemically stable and doesn't corrode. It therefore needn't be encapsulated in additional layers to prevent contact with the air. BaFe also has high coercivity, which makes recorded tapes less sensitive to magnetic fields and should lead to longer shelf life.

Like mainframes and railroads, tape isn't dead yet and has a long and healthy--if no longer exciting--future. HP sold more tape drives and media in 2010 than in 2009, and library vendor Spectra Logic announced that its enterprise tape library sales were up 60 percent over last year.  

A well-designed long-term archive system can store its metadata on disk and have two tiers of tape behind that. The first tier, tape in the library, has a retrieval time of 2 to 10 minutes but stores three to five times the data per square foot of data center and uses several times less power than a disk system.

The second tier, tape on the shelf, is very inexpensive over time because it draws almost no power (just office-class HVAC), but it does suffer from longer retrieval times and higher retrieval costs--just the thing for the petabytes of write once read never (WORN) data most organizations are drowning in.

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at: http://www.deepstorage.net/NEW/GBoS

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