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Quantum Extends LTFS/LTO Tape Market

Quantum has chosen to announce its Scalar Linear Tape File System (LTFS) appliance at this week's National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas. The Scalar LTFS appliance uses a self-describing file system and is intended to act as a gateway between a tape library supporting the Linear Tape Open (LTO) standard and network-attached storage (NAS), providing the benefits of LTFS to library users as well as to users of standalone LTO drives.

Storage heavyweight EMC, which sponsored an IDC study on the growing data deluge, found data is doubling every two years, and enterprises will manage 50 times more data and files will grow 75 times in the next decade. Another vendor with a vested interest in facilitating video growth, networking giant Cisco, has reported that more than 50% of all Internet traffic in 2011 was video and that by 2014 the volume will be 90%.

"This announcement is another step in the transition of LTFS from a simple technology to an integral element in petabyte-scale content serving and archiving systems," says Rick Villars, VP, information and cloud, at IDC. "While it will still take some time to integrate into general enterprises, it will deliver immediate benefits in the video/media space where the performance, durability and cost characteristics of LTO tape match well with business requirements.”

As with the LTO specification itself, where a consortium of three vendors--HP, IBM and Quantum, known as the Technology Provider Companies (TPC)--get together every few years and decide upon specifications for tape cartridges with a steady increase in speed and capacity, the LTFS specification was originally developed by IBM, says Quantum's Mark Pastor, strategic business manager for the San Jose, Calif., company. IBM donated the technology to the consortium, which backed it as an industry standard in 2010. Now it is on its way to becoming an open industry standard, which the LTO organization strongly supports, he says.

While some niche markets, primarily the media and entertainment business, have adopted LTFS, it won't live up to it's promise without support from archiving and e-discovery vendors, notes Network Computing storage guru Howard Marks. In addition to providing a standard interchange format, LTFS promises big advantages to storing data in a standard format over a long period of time. If your archive program stores each object it archives as a native file in an LTFS file system, you're not dependent on a single vendor for the data mover, indexer, search engine and litigation hold functions.

While previously Quantum had provided LTFS-compatible products such as standalone drivers, as well as some introductions of automation support, the company has not had a tape automation solution product before this, Pastor says. The LTFS file system means that users can drag and drop files to tape cartridges and have them be self-describing, as though they were actually moving them to a USB flash drive, he says. Then, the user could send that cartridge to someone else and, as long as the person the cartridge was sent to had an LTO-compatible drive, he or she would be able to read the files on the cartridge without having to have the same backup application.

The appliance consists of two 2-Tbyte mirrored drives, which also store all the metadata for the cartridges, but this fits within 20% of the space, Pastor says. In addition, the company could choose to put in a bigger disk, he says. The product comes in three models: Enterprise, with 10-Gbit Ethernet, 8-Gbit Fibre Channel and up to 32 tape drives; FC Department, with 1-Gbit Ethernet, 8-Gbit Fibre Channel and up to eight tape drives; and SAS Department, with 1-Gbit Ethernet, 6-Gbit SASand up to eight tape drives. It is scheduled to be available in June, starting at $15,000 for the FC Department version, he says.