The LTFS Tape Revolution is Underway

Tape is alive, especially in the archive. With the phase out of optical discs as an alternative for long-term storage and the adoption of Linear Tape File System (LTFS) technology, tape offers more benefits for long-term data archives than ever before.  

As companies evaluate their strategy for tiering data, there’s a never-ending struggle between the need for large-scale unstructured data storage and static budgets for many IT departments. While disk supports rapid queries and access, it can cost as much as 15 times more than tape. Considering the environmental conditions and operational costs of a disk library, it isn’t surprising that IT pros are turning to tape for long-term storage needs.

Data partitioning for fast retrieval

The problem has traditionally been that accessing data from tape is time-consuming and difficult to manage. However, new Linear Tape File System (LTFS) and Linear Tape Open (LTO) technologies pave the way for tape to take on advanced responsibilities in the archive world.

One huge advantage of LTFS is that it is self-describing, enabling tape to be split into two partitions for organization. Partition 0 includes an index of the tape’s contents; partition 1 holds the actual data. This is significant because it allows users a file-system view of the tape data, making it quicker to access specific files.

Vendor neutrality

Most importantly, LTFS enables tape to be vendor-neutral, meaning that any LTFS-formatted tape can be read or written to by any LTFS-enabled system. This capability ensures that data is not locked down due to vendor-specific applications or hardware.  Think of it like a USB flash drive. You could load up any brand USB flash drive with files from a MAC and then plug the flash drive into a PC to read the files.

Additionally, this fosters collaboration between organizations. For example, two hospitals can share data on a tape regardless of what brand media or drives are used.

Accessibility through file systems

With LTFS, tape data is transformed into a file system. Users easily navigate and retrieve files via simple drag-and-drop applications. In the case of Crossroads Systems new product StrongBox, LTFS tape and disk work together to provide an active archive while maintaining a data vault that can scale up to 30PB of data storage. Differing from HSM, which moves data to different mediums based on policies, StrongBox perpetually maintains files in the LTFS medium to protect against data loss.

Despite the assertion that ‘tape is dead,’ many IT pros still use tape; however, they have been frustrated by managing expansive tape libraries. LTFS remedies many of those challenges by bringing tape into a file system, keeping it non-proprietary, and employing better organization for more efficient data retrieval.

How has LTFS impacted your archiving strategy? Let us know in the comments!