• 10/25/2013
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Delving Into Spectra Logic Deep Storage

With its RESTful interface and BlackPearl storage appliance, Spectra Logic promises to breathe new life into the tape market.

Long-term retention of large quantities of data where latencies in the range of minutes is acceptable is among the target use cases for deep storage. Web 2.0, big data, media and entertainment, and genomic research are among the usual suspects. At a recent press and analyst event, Spectra Logic customers described how they're using the technology.

For Yahoo, deep storage provides an alternative to traditional backup processes. The company uses tape libraries to store backups. The process works, but really can be used only for disaster recovery when a lot of data needs to be recovered (as Yahoo's process for restores is not that granular).“Archiving is what we want, backup is what we are stuck with,” according to a Yahoo representative.

Now, Yahoo deals with a lot of fixed content data that is really not a good target for backup, as continuing to backup data that never changes is very inefficient. An archive is a copy of data that does not change, but it's not a backup copy, and Yahoo likes the fact that it is no longer slave to a backup application with Spectra Logic's technology. Although the data is not available to external users, the data can now be available to internal users to unlock potential, such as data scientists being able to run queries.

Another customer, media management software company Axle Video, uses deep storage as a way to manage workflow processes. Although tape is an efficient medium for storing large amounts of data for the long term, it is not a good medium for editing; that's where random access media is more effective. However, having to move or migrate large quantities of random access media when only a portion of the data is really needed at any one time has been a headache.

Sam Bogoch, CEO of Axle Video, says his company has found a way to get the benefits of both sequential media (that is, tape) and random access media (that is, flash or hard disk). Axle Video stores the bulk of data using deep storage, but democratization of media (available for use by all) makes things doable that weren’t before, such as the use of streaming proxies to provide just enough data for editing on random access media, Boguch says.

The process allows customers to search existing media, browse from a range of standard devices (including tablets, rather than just old-style edit stations), and enable the workflow processes of collaboration, logging, review and approval.

Mesabi Musings

Just when you think that some technology is locked away, thinking outside the box can change things dramatically. That is the case with magnetic tape, where the sum of traditional thinking has been that the backup/restore market for tape would continue to decline, while the use of tape for active archiving would continue to increase.

The introduction of deep storage by Spectra Logic has changed that perception, and promises to open up new markets for tape. While this should not have a significant impact on existing products, it could open up a number of new and unusual opportunities that represent a boatload of storage. Since DS3 will eventually be open, it will be interesting to see if any other IT vendors will want to play in this space or if Spectra Logic will have it all to itself.

Spectra Logic is not a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.

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