• 12/09/2011
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Crossroads' StrongBox: Securing the Future of Data Archiving

If you were asked which storage product--hard disk drives (HDDs) or tape--would decline precipitously in market share during the next five to 10 years, you would probably be one of the vast majority of people who said tape. You would also be wrong. Winning storage technologies have to excel on at least one dimension, either performance or capacity, and tape excels on capacity.

Now, despite these scenarios, all is not rosy for the tape market. Disk-to-disk storage technologies will be used more and more for initial backup and restore requirements. However, the use of tape for active archiving will be a growth market for tape. As a result, HDDs will suffer from disintermediation at both ends of the spectrum. SSDs will be used for high-performance applications, and tape will be used for capacity. This does not necessarily mean that HDDs will disappear from the face of the earth. One might be able to construct plausible use cases where HDDs still play a role. But it will be significantly impacted.

Still, enterprises are not concerned about the fate of particular technologies, but rather what their fates entail. Although organizations are starting to grow more comfortable with SSDs, they probably have not thought about what an extensive move to active archiving, especially involving tape, will entail. That’s an issue where Crossroads seems well-positioned to influence and prosper, so let’s examine the role the company’s StrongBox solutions will play in continuing to advance the use of tape in active archiving.

Though active archiving stores fixed content, that data still has to be accessible online, where online means that users can retrieve information without the intervention of an IT professional. Tape was seen at best as being a nearline solution, requiring the services of an IT professional for retrieval, or more likely offline, meaning tape media has to be manually loaded into a tape drive as part of an overall retrieval process. The introduction of LTFS enables tape to be used online, albeit not with the response times needed for such applications as online transaction processing systems.

Crossroads' StrongBox exploitation of LTFS offers an illustration of how to bring active archiving to life on tape. StrongBox is a fully portable data vault manager for long-term retention of data. Key characteristics include its ability to allow online, all-the-time and non-proprietary access to data, including e-mail, database, and file archives.

StrongBox is instantiated as a physical appliance between servers that request I/Os of the active archive as if they were disk I/O requests and tape automation products that fulfill those requests. Each StrongBox contains read and write cache to manage the files. The company’s model T1 is a 1U server that supports up to 200 million files at a maximum file transfer rate of 160 Mbytes per second. The model T3 is a 3U server that supports up to 5 billion files with a maximum file transfer rate of 600 Mbytes per second. Crossroads has been around for quite a while and has a good reputation for delivering enterprise-class quality products, including high availability solutions.

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