Disaster Recovery

Do the LTO-5 tape drives change your take on data protection?

Now that the LTO-5 tape format is available, will that change how your organization views its data protection strategy?

This week, I am at the HP StorageWorks Tech Day event in Houston. The first topic we discussed is HP's announcement that it is offering LTO-5 tape devices. LTO-5 is the natural progression of the popular tape format. LTO-5 has a native storage capacity of 1.5 TB and a compressed capacity of 3.0 TB. While it isn't exactly a surprise that LTO-5 is now available, how does tape fit into most organizations?

There are arguments for and against tape. During our sessions, a number of IT professionals said they are performing data protection exclusively via tape. For example, storage professional Devang Panchigar of StorageNerve still doesn't see the need for tape. Among the key arguments for tape is the ability to, in a way, remove the human element. One situation where storage-based data protection (such as volume replication) can be flawed compared to tape is deleting a file on one end and being immediately deleted on the other. Compounding features on storage can hedge down the "advantages" of tape compared to disk-based data protection. These features include volume snapshots on the storage system as a way to roll back to a point in time. Further, backup software such as Backup Exec, Veeam Backup, and many others can protect data by maintaining large archives of systems and data.

When it comes to architecting data protection without tape, IT professionals have options. My preference is to protect data without tape; this can be done using backup software that creates large archives of protected systems and protecting that on disk that may be replicated. The end result is that every organization needs to apply their data retention requirements to their protection strategy.

What is your take on tape-based data protection? Does LTO-5 open some doors for your options? Share your comments below.

Disclosure: The event organizer covered my tickets, meals, airfare, and accommodations. The opinions stated are the result of an in-person demonstration of the technologies discussed. Read my full blogger disclosure.

TechRepublic's Servers and Storage newsletter, delivered on Monday and Wednesday, offers tips that will help you manage and optimize your data center. Automatically sign up today!

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

24 comments
steven.footy02
steven.footy02

I would say that the best option is to have a SAN to hold all your backups to disk and after dump them to tape for off site storage. To have minimal data possible, you have to use an application with deduplication built in. Tapes will hold your weekly/Monthly backups. That is how i see it, may be costy, but backups are your life line if your system is down for some reason.

johnjavid
johnjavid

Yes, LTO 5 tapes have protected our data from lost or stolen because use of wrom technology.

Dirt Burner
Dirt Burner

For most small to mid-sized organizations, tape is still a good solution that is not complex. Many organizations do not have a dedicated IT tech to keep a watchful eye on a multi-faceted system. But, a well planned tape system can be setup, and someone at the location be instructed on its basic operation. More importantly, they can be taught what to watch for and know when to call with a problem. I personally use a LTO-4 system that picks up parts of 5 servers. It's quick enough that I have the daily backups running as full backups. Once a month, a tape is pulled to be kept off site.

b4real
b4real

During our demonstrations and discussions at HP Storage Day, one of the storage engineers explained that tape can actually have a small section cut and removed from the LTO tape without data loss. They can piece it back together, but it of course one of those things you never want to try but can be done.

fun_to_know
fun_to_know

I utilize an ML6030 Tape Library and change out the full set of tapes daily. I use BackUp Exec to disk (SANS)and then disk to tape and tapes go off-site. I am careful using my back up windows efficently and some servers and stroage are backed up daily while others weekly or even bi-weekly. Mission critical data is replicated over a dedicated DSL line to a subsidiary office 55 miles away usong Double-Take. I have been fortunate to have been able to recover several times relatively accurately including SQL databases, Exchange mailboxes and data files with this mix. I will stick with tape for some time yet until data replication and bandwidth become more efficient.

dcollar
dcollar

I believe that a combination of all three types (B2D / B2T / Internet Off Site) is like having the best of everything. LTO tape drives and media are cheap these days which allows for entire systems snapshots taken off-site for DR purposes. B2D is great because Its fast, inexpensive, if I need to restore anything I don't have to find the right tape and wait for it to hunt to the data. Internet services are cheap and great for yet another form of protection of "critical data". All of these are scaleable to my client's size. I have larger clients who have tape libraries (they can afford the $$$), multi-terabyte B2D arrays and off-site Internet. Smaller clients (smaller backup requirements) use the essentially a scalled back LTO/B2D/Internet combination. Works great. As long as the price on the LTO-5 drive and media is at a reasonable price, I'll probably end up using it.

JohnOfStony
JohnOfStony

Rick Vanover says: "During our sessions, a number of IT professionals said they are performing data protection exclusively via tape. For example, storage professional Devang Panchigar of StorageNerve still doesn?t see the need for tape." What kind of nonsense is that? Does Rick read what he writes before publishing it? Why use tape at all. Tape is fragile, sensitive to humidity and temperature and, worst of all, the 'standards' keep changing. We were using tape backup at one time; then the tape drive packed up. We then discovered that the format we were using was obsolete so we couldn't buy a new replacement drive. This has happened to me on more than one occasion whereas hard drives are universal and their capacity is generally higher than that of tape and, most important, access to any part of the disc is fast, unlike tape where searching for a particular archive takes a significant amount of time. Why any company spends any time or effort producing tape beats me. Everywhere you look tape has been (or is being) replaced by hard disc, CD, DVD or non-volatile RAM devices.

micheldufrenoy
micheldufrenoy

I recently gave a seminar to Digital Photography studios with multi-terabyte storage requirements. My presentation demonstrates graphical the advantages and disadvantages of the major storage technologies: disk, tape, optical and new SSD flash storage drives. The major advantages of tape are cost per terabyte (bar none) and transfer rate, MB/s (rivaled only by flash, which is clearly *not* a viable backup media due to cost). What are the disadvantages of tape? Industry experts estimate that 60% of tape backup runs are unsuccessful. From my experience with disk changers, this might be excessively high. But, in the hands of less experienced admins, I can imagine this is a conservative figure. Tape also has a very steep upfront cost for the tape changer(s). Are tapes for everyone? Clearly not. Are tapes obsolete? Clearly not (at least now with LTO-5). Is tape backup exclusive of disk backup? Clearly not. An informed, thorough analysis is required.

blackepyon01
blackepyon01

Personally, I use multiple removable hard drives on a rotation and an XCOPY script. The local computer store where I get parts from has 1TB HDDs for around CDN$110. Hard drives are replaced every 2 years, where I also clean out stagnant data.

Justin James
Justin James

We do offsite backups, and the amount of storage is just getting huge. Right now, we have been using disks for all of our backups, but it's not enough. For cost reasons, we are using DAS, and it is a total disaster (no one forsaw that moving to a VM environment would lead to an explosion in storage needs, as VMs are so easy to create that they get maade for every little thing now). In conjuction with the storage explosion, our backups are in dire trouble too. Right now, we are using 2TB SATA drives, but in the near future, we are going to end up either needed an autoloading tape system (big bucks for our budget) or start doing our backups to a removable enclosure that internally RAIDs the disks and presents them as one drive to the OS. J.Ja

Gilbertr14
Gilbertr14

Unfortunately in countries such as South Africa, off site backups via techionologies such as the likes of VMware is unafforadble to many companies This leaves Tape as no other option. It may not be the best, but is it the best compromise.

jerry.p009
jerry.p009

yes it is more secure because of worm technology in fact are brands are good of lto 5 like HP, Maxell, Sony, dell lto ultrium tape

oholland
oholland

The answer is simply depends on the company and how critical data backup is to that company. I prefer both tape and disk backup solutions. For instance, my company has LTO 4 for backing up Exchange and data storage servers BUT we also use a product called rSync that constantly backs up user files across multiple servers. rSync backs up to large drives (usually USB,eSata or Firewire drives. In case a restore is needed, we have two solutions. I like tape for several reasons and because the LTO 4 is very fast, we can restore huge data set quickly. In addition, it is universally easy to restore from anywhere. Take exchange for instance, if there is a server crash, we can restore from the last flat file backup then do an incrimental restore. So, with the much larger LTO 5, we can do more at a reasonable cost. "Reasonable" means, an LTO drive cost about $2,000 but the amount of data 1.5TB stored in disk cost more. Botton line? Use what's best for your needs but try to have two solutions.

brack_tony
brack_tony

This response, and some of the other replies it received. Tape and disk are very different solutions, and current disk technologies are still far more volatile or alternatively have smaller capacities than tape media for certain applications. For short term volatile storage, disk is likely superior. For long term, bulk storage tape, regardless of cost, is still the only way to go unless write-once media is sufficient in size. To the point, tape can be physically write protected, whereas current disk media cannot. A single tape drive is faster for bulk streamed write than a single dis is, hands down. By employing more expensive and complex storage technologies, these differences can be overcome, but then there are costs and tradeoffs, both financial and technological associated with these (large cached disk arrays, striped tape, ...) Having said this, the arguments presented here make me wonder about how well founded they are: 1. Universal Hard Drives? Hardly! When was the last time you tried reading an ESDI drive from the mid 80s? Where would you put it? Can you even FIND a PCI controller for one? How about single-ended SCSI-1 drive cabling & enclosures for, say a 5.25 inch drive? How about early ATA drives? 2. Which major tape technology went obsolete? I can still read the old major technologies on current equipment - DAT, 8mm, DLT and LTO are all backwards compatible to available equipment. The only tapes I can think of that *might* be a bit of a challenge to me are 9 track and QIC. Having said this, there are advantages to disk based technologies like deduplication, nearline replication and fast access for immediate short-term storage. For longevity and bulk storage, tape is still king. WORMish technologies traditionally do not have enough capacity or performance, and DASD is still volatile as it has far more mechanical and electronic components. Raid configurations offer redundancy, but also compound the number of single points of failure unless they remain live. Even then, you start hitting MTBF calculations that are not favorable to disk. Besides this, I can't think of any disk controllers or networks that can match the sheer bandwidth of a semi-trailer full of magtapes. By the way, the software that manages and encodes the data is still the greatest exposure for consistency and longevity. I would challenge most of you to interpret data stored on EITHER a tape or disk from a PDP-11 or DECsystem-10 using today's technology, even if the description of the format were provided to you. I am a programmer, and can honestly say that I would likely have greater success reading and interpreting data from a 25 year old 9-track tape than trying to read a 25 year old disk.

the_hunteroz
the_hunteroz

Not really having a crack at you but do you realise the storage life of an LTO3 media in the correct conditions that is about 130 years! e.g. a fireproof safe CD life = 3-8 years max DVD life = 10 -15 years Hard drives fail!!!! more often than tape drives, LTO 3 with SCSI 3 card = 4GB a minute theoretical write speed. Hard drive SATA II about 250MB a second This is another reason why you buy extended warranty! most manufacturers are willing to give you extended warranty/carepacks with the purchase for an additional $500 which extends the warranty from 12 months to 3 years which is much cheaper than having to replace a drive as they are $1200 roughly I work for a multinational company our mainstay for backups is tape, always has been, and will be for some time

eclypse
eclypse

If you had an LTO-1 drive, an LTO-5 drive would likely read it (this was at least the case for LTO-2 and -3). It might not write to it, but you would be able to recover your data. In our experience with LTO-2 media, it was pretty darn reliable. Before LTO, I can see how this could have happened to you, but my guess is that eBay might have been some help. Perhaps not. I would still maintain that tape is easier to transport than disks if you actually have to physically "move" your data off-site. Tapes may be sensitive to a lot of things, but you can drop a tape and still recover data from it. I tried to do that with a disk once and did not have favourable results. =) Hard drives are not universal. There are many interfaces - you can not plug an IDE drive into a SATA connector nor a FC connector nor a SCSI connector. However, it is much more likely that you can still find drives and controllers for all of the aforementioned drive types. The only reason we moved away from LTO tapes for our main backup (and we always had a disk pool that rolled off to tape anyway) was due to devices like Data Domain that will deduplicate and replicate across the wire. Not a cheap solution, but much cheaper than new tape libraries that would accommodate our data requirements.

b4real
b4real

Michel: You mention: "My presentation demonstrates graphical the advantages and disadvantages of the major storage technologies: disk, tape, optical and new SSD flash storage drives." Why is API-based cloud storage not an option? I clearly see it as a media delivery mechanism, even in the multi TB range.

jasonemmg
jasonemmg

I use a combination of off-site, tape and HDD back up systems. My most critical data goes off-site every night as well internal tape and/or HDD. My servers have internal tape and/or both tape and HDD which get swapped out very often. I had recently looked at prices of tape back but can get expensive. If you use tape and HDD make sure you store in safe location so data can't be lost in a disaster.

b4real
b4real

Any thoughts on Virtual Tape Libraries? I've not used them, but presumably they are disk that function like tape (option to make read only). Good: High speed compared to tape Good: Won't have tape read issues Bad: Can fail like a drive Is there a perfect solution? Probably not.

dark_angel_6
dark_angel_6

I have had hard drive fail after only 12 months and they tend to be very susceptible to shock and ESD. I also used to recover data from tape media going back to 9-track and 21-track tapes (21 tracks were in use from around the late 50's to the early 80's) so I'd say that is proof that tape backup is generally more reliable than Hard disk media.

dark_angel_6
dark_angel_6

As someone who worked with a lot of tape media at one point (last year), I can tell you that the LTO standard is not completely backward compatible. For example an LTO-2 drive will also read LTO-1 Cartridges, while and LTO-3 drive will read both LTO-2 and LTO-1 cartridges. However, an LTO-4 drive Cannot read LTO-1 cartridges. As such, new LTO-5 drives cannot read LTO-1 or LTO-2 cartridges. So while you are correct and LTO is generally backward compatible, if you wait too long to upgrade to new tape media, your tapes may not be backward compatible after all. Just something to think about.

b4real
b4real

I don't see too many LTO-2 or lower devices still in use. Tape media, however, that's a different story.

lon.feuerhelm
lon.feuerhelm

LTO tapes are read-write compatible one generation and read-only for 2 generations. If one goes to LTO-5 you must be currently using LTO-3 or 4 to be able to access your old data.

b4real
b4real

There is a somewhat logical cutoff between LTO-3/4/5 and LTO-1/2. Those two seem to have pretty good series compatibility in those groupings.

Editor's Picks