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Jul 16 2015

Petabyte Storage for Midsize Companies: FUJITSU Storage ETERNUS LT260 Tape System


Although reports about its final demise have been pouring in for well over a decade, tape storage is still pretty much alive – and basically indispensable for all organizations that have to ensure long-term data retention. Fujitsu's ETERNUS LT series of tape systems tends to these customers' needs, with the latest addition to the roster being an upgraded version of the ETERNUS LT260 tape library first introduced in 2014.

Since its initial release last fall, the new device serves two main purposes. One is to provide a highly scalable tape storage platform that combined performance with extreme density and unprecedented ease of use; the other to close a gap between entry-level tape systems and autoloaders for small-scale environments and larger tape libraries for midsize companies. In other words, we built a tape library that was tailored to meet the capacity demands of medium-sized companies while offering enterprise-class functionality that would suit backup as well as archiving scenarios. And thanks to the underlying modular concept, which secures the expandability of the ETERNUS LT260, we were able to add investment protection on top of all that.

Capacity, Performance and Architecture
If all this sounds a bit abstract, that's because it is. So what are the practical advantages of the ETERNUS LT260, beyond the classic argument of tape providing the best economics for any kind of long-term data retention? If we look at the latest data sheet, there are several specifications that set Fujitsu's new tape library apart from competing solutions:

  • Capacity: With enough room for 400 TB of uncompressed and 1 petabyte (PB) of compressed data, the first ETERNUS LT260 models already offered much more storage space than rivaling libraries for medium-sized companies, which clock in at roughly one third of this amount. As of July 2015, we are now raising the bar considerably higher, bringing capacity to 1.4 PB for uncompressed and 3.5 PB for compressed data – a 250% increase over the initial edition.
  • Data throughput and speed: The maximum transfer rates for uncompressed and compressed data arrive at 24.2 and 58.8 TB per hour, respectively, for a fully configured library with seven units (see below). Sequential read and write speeds will reach 400 and 160 MB/s per drive, while variable speed recording of uncompressed data ranges from 53 to 160 MB/s.
  • Flexibility and ease of deployment: Each drive inside an ETERNUS LT260 connects to hosts either via an 8 Gb/s FC or a 6 Gb/s SAS interface. The former enables high throughput that helps to drastically reduce backup times, while the latter allows for building flexible (even tiered) storage architectures at relatively low costs. What's more, the ETERNUS LT260 supports the entire range of open systems servers regardless of CPU type and operating system, i.e. any x86 or SPARC server running supported versions of Windows, Linux or Unix. Likewise, it cooperates with all popular software solutions from leading vendors like Symantec, CommVault, EMC or CA. In short, the ETERNUS LT260 will swiftly integrate into almost any given backup and archiving environment.
  • Easy expandability and high density: As noted above, the ETERNUS LT260 builds on a "modular concept," which means that customers can start with a fully functional base unit that has all necessary components pre-installed. Each of these units comes equipped with up to six tape drives and slots for up to 80 tapes that can hold a maximum 500 TB of data. This basic configuration may be expanded with up to six additional modules providing identical capacities, thus arriving at a total of 42 tape drives, 560 tape slots or 3.5 PB storage space (see above). Moreover, since all slots within a module are activated by default, there are no hidden upgrade costs, which means the ETERNUS LT260 also offers excellent investment protection.
  • Ease of use and ease of management: Although many midsize companies run their own IT departments, they often don't have enough storage experts – and in particular tape storage experts –on board. That's why the ETERNUS LT260 adds a number of components and features that make it simple to operate, maintain and manage even with a small staff or limited skill set. One of these components are removable mail slots (up to 10 per module) that simplify importing, exporting or exchanging single tapes and cleaning cartridges. Probably the most interesting software feature is the logical library function, which allows admins to 'split up' each unit into as many as six partitions or subsystems that may then be used as dedicated backup or archiving units for different server groups or application environments in parallel. And as some kind of icing on the cake, the entire setup can be remotely and centrally managed using an intuitive browser GUI with numerous automation options – so there is practically no need for on-site tape storage experts at all.
  • Backwards compatibility: Like other member of the ETERNUS LT family, the LT260 supports multiple variants of Linear Tape-Open (LTO) technology, in this case LTO-6 and LTO-5. This ensures read/write compatibility with the previous generation and read compatibility with the penultimate generation of tape media. Put differently, depending on the individual setup users will be able to access data that was written to tape 10 years ago – hard disks typically last a little more than half as long under optimum conditions.
  • Data security: The ETERNUS LT260 supports all encryption mechanisms provided with popular backup programs such as CommVault Simpana, Symantec NetBackup etc., which typically include their own key management functions. In addition, users who demand a higher level of security now have the option to use the Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP), a standard for exchanging encryption keys over the network that enables admins to deploy a single, consistent key management system to various devices in the data center. Normally requiring a separate license fee, the encryption key management function can be ordered free of charge with every ETERNUS LT260 ordered until December 31, 2015.

Use Cases
Thanks to its massive capacity and scalability, comprehensive functionality and ease of use, the ETERNUS LT260 may easily turn into the tape platform of choice for a wide variety of usage scenarios, namely

  • Consolidated backups, e.g. of aggregated tape backups, of data stored on ETERNUS DX disk arrays or of data stored on file servers in a NAS environment, preferably via an extra backup server that directly connects to the tape library and thus produces no extra load on compute or storage networks
  • Backups for mission-critical tasks running on server clusters
  • Centralized backup-to-tape and archiving of disk backups from remote and branch offices (to ETERNUS LT260 in the main data center)
  • Fast and smooth disaster recovery from backup tapes that were kept at a secondary site

Contrary to permanent assertions from self-proclaimed experts, 'tape' still plays a key role in the backup, recovery and archiving strategies of numerous corporations large and small. Apparently for good reason: aside from the hitherto unbeatable cost advantage per GB, tape storage solutions like Fujitsu's ETERNUS LT260 can help solve issues such as longevity and backwards compatibility that remain problematic in 'pure' disk storage environments. With its 3.5 PB maximum capacity, exemplary expandability and unprecedented ease of use, the ETERNUS LT260 is highly attractive for midsized companies looking for a backend system to satisfy both their backup and long-term data retention needs.

Christian Rösler


About the Author:

Christian Rösler

System Engineer Tape Automation, Fujitsu EMEIA


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