Oracle bod: Tape not just for Xmas, it's for Hollywood and unis too
Not only for mainframes, ask the BBC and Sony
Interview Oracle loves a bit of flash and disk hardware, flogging compute-and-storage all-in-one Exalogic systems with software on top, but it's partial to tape, too.
Not only does it supply tape, it's one of the top four manufacturers, alongside HP, IBM and SpectraLogic, of very high-end libraries. Like IBM, it has its own storage format - the T10000A, B and C - alongside the nearly all-conquering LTO format, and supplies systems using this to mainframe customers as well as LTO systems everywhere else.
Like IBM, Oracle is protected in the mainframe tape market from the depredations of disk-to-disk (D2D) backup because big iron machines use tape in a different way. But in the world of Windows, Unix and Linux servers, D2D backup has decimated tape backup and relegated it to an archive medium. Now cloud-service providers find tape archiving is much more economical than disk archiving.
Everyday tape use as an archive vault and backstop for D2D is strengthened by LTFS, the Linear Tape File System, which provides standard file and folder access on tape as an alternative to the complex and non-standard storage formats used by dedicated backup applications.
Against this background El Reg asked Tom Wultich, director of tape product management at Oracle, some questions, most of which he answered and some of which he didn't.
El Reg: What is the general position of tape in Oracle's offering?
Tom Wultich: Tape continues to be an area of strength in Oracle’s hardware portfolio. We continue to build out our portfolio of tape offerings for both the enterprise and midrange. In April, Oracle announced StorageTek Tape Analytics software, which is a management and monitoring tool for our StorageTek tape libraries. We launched the StorageTek SL150 modular tape library back in July; it is a small rack-mount LTO library. And then in October, Oracle announced the StorageTek Virtual Storage Manager 6 (VSM) system, our latest generation mainframe virtual tape system.
El Reg: What can you say about the T10000 tape format roadmap? Will we see a T10000D with 6 to 10TB of raw capacity? When? What will the raw capacity be? What would its transfer speed and compression ratio be? 2. Same goes for the T10000E with a 12 to 20TB raw capacity.
Wultich was unable or unwilling to answer these questions.
El Reg: What is Oracle's view of LTFS? Does it provide a new role for tape?
Tom Wultich: We are excited about LTFS. We co-chair the SNIA standard committee for LTFS. Yes, it is starting to knock down a barrier, making tape easier to use than ever before. In addition to the initial customer segment of media and entertainment, we are seeing other large archives taking a serious look at LTFS for the benefits it brings in its interface.
We believe that LTFS is one of the key enablers to help tape bring its long-term TCO advantages to more archival data for more customers. Another key enabler is in monitoring and analytics, where we've made a paradigm shift.
El Reg: Would Oracle add an LTFS-like facility to the T10000 format? What are the pros and cons of doing this?
Tom Wultich: Yes, we provided LTFS last year and released an open-source driver that works with Oracle’s StorageTek T10000C, IBM LTO, and HP LTO tape drives. One of our demos is to move files from one LTO vendor to the T10000C and then to the other LTO vendor. The pros - this enables customers to use LTO for interchange (which is what some people in the media and entertainment need) and use the T10000C for their main storage, enjoying its TCO and enterprise benefits. There isn't much in the way of cons, but the application needs to support it of course.
I love the way that some people consider disk to disk to be a backup. What happens if your server gets stolen or destroyed? That'll be the instances where the customer was happy they kept using tapes then.
Tape is and probably always will be a nice cheap and reliable option for backups. I can't see the overly expensive RDX cartridges replacing them unless the cost of HDD's drops like a stone.
... And seriously, removing the oldest backup tape from the media pool and relagating it to being a long term archive is not unusual, is it? I mean, it's not like everybody doesn't gracefully retire their tapes that way after they get past X age...
I can't see why most SBE's would want to commit to an archive system more expensive than that, when most probably don't realise their IT people retire old tapes and bring in new ones that way, so the 5 minutes it takes to find the tape(s) marked "Q3 2007 backup" is probably not going to be a major driver for spending.
If Oracle want to help with tape libaries then IMO the best thing they could do would be to produce shelves the size of the tapes for common tape safes, because that's about all SBE's would buy in the current economic climate for something they don't really need. :/
Good article. However...
"But in the world of Windows, Unix and Linux servers, D2D backup has decimated tape backup and relegated it to an archive medium."
Can the commentariat think of any large business where this has happened ? I can't.
None I know of, have worked for or have heard of.
Though I suppose if you counted RDX cartridges as D2D it might make a drastic difference to the figures.