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Quantum has launched an LTFS tape file system appliance and hopes to popularise low-cost, high-capacity tape use for accessing large video files.

LTFS is the Linear Tape File System. It was devised by IBM, using a partitioning feature of the LTO-5 tape standard, and presents a file/folder system interface to tape drives, allowing files to be dragged and dropped to a tape cartridge without needing any backup software to control the tape cartridge interface. Quantum's Scalar LTFS appliance is a NAS head box, implementing NFS and CIFS access to connected Scalar LTO-5 tape libraries.

The Scalar LTFS appliance comes in enterprise, departmental and SMB models. Our understanding is that the enterprise version supports up to 32 tape drives in the Scalar library, accessed through 10GbitE or 8Gbit/s Fibre Channel (FC) interfaces. The departmental model supports up to 8 drives through a 1GbitE or 8Gbit/s FC interface. FC is eschewed by the SMB model, also supporting up to 8 drives, and using 1GbitE or the 6Gbit/s SAS protocol to link to the tape library.

The enterprise model has 2TB of hard disk drive storage but incoming files are written direct to the connected tape library, the disk space being used to store the filesystem metadata. There is a read-ahead cache and multiple tape libraries can be accessed simultaneously.

Quantum says the NFS interface means that video capture and similar gear using the XDCam P2 SSD methods can export data to the appliance, enabling their own storage devices to be emptied and re-used. Its StorNext file system products, which provide a filesystem combining disk and tape hardware, can use the Scalar LTFS appliance to import data from Scalar and other LTO-5 tape libraries into StorNext.

The big pitch here is that, yes, tape is slower than disk, but it is much less expensive per GB of stored data and streaming performance is good. So video capture, editing and processing shops can use tape for bulk storage of video data, streaming it to workstations and servers when needed, thus economising on expensive disk storage and charging their clients less. LTFS makes tape a more available archive, in terms of access ease, than traditional backup and archive software. An LTFS tape store can be used in a production shop as an active store and not as a vault for dead and near-dead files.

Quantum is following Crossroads and its StrongBox announced in December last year. That box writes incoming files to disk first and then on to tape; the Scalar LTFS product writes direct to the tape drive. Object Matrix also has a product in this space. We can expect other tape library suppliers, such as SpectraLogic, to introduce similar LTFS appliance NAS heads as time goes by.

The Scalar LTFS appliance will be available in June 2012, and list pricing begins at around $15,000. The Crossroads StrongBox T1 costs around $21,000. ®

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