Fujifilm LTO Ultrium8 Magnetic Tape Can Store up to 30TB of Compressed Data

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What year is this? 2019. So I was a little surprised when I saw the news about Fujifilm recently releasing a 12TB magnetic tape, as I truly thought those were relics of the past.

But apparently, magnetic tapes are still a thing in some countries such as the United States in applications where a large amount of data needs to be stored over an extended period of time.

Fujifilm 12TB Magnetic Tape

Fujifilm LTO-8 (Linear Tape-Open Ultrium8) data cartridge was unveiled last month with 12TB native capacity, up to 30TB compressed capacity, and data rates of 360 MB/s.

Fujifilm is said to be the world’s largest manufacturer of magnetic tapes, and since there’s virtually no demand in Japan, most of the tapes are exported.

Nikkei Xtech reports the maximum capacity of the new magnetic tape is double the one of Fujifilm’s LTO-7 previous generation magnetic tape. The LTO-8 cartridge includes a 960m-long, 1.265cm-wide magnetic tape with  6,656 tracks for data and the magnetic head can read and write on up to 32 tracks at the same time.

LTO Ultrium8 Data Cartridge

The press release from Fujifilm further explains the tape is made of barium ferrite (BaFe) magnetic particles and lists some of the advantages of magnetic tapes over HDDs:

  • The LTO8 has superior TCO to HDD capable of holding a large amount of cold data at low cost.
  • Creates an “air gap” data protection, physically isolated from the network, which minimizes the risk of data damage or loss caused by system failures, infection with computer viruses and cyberattacks.
  • An accelerated life test has indicated that magnetic tape, with greater stability, is reliable to store data for more than 50 years.

Magnetic tapes are specifically designed for “cold data storage”, meaning for the retention of inactive data such as backups,  or other data generated a while time ago and seldom accessed.

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tkaiser
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tkaiser

> up to 30TB of Compressed Data

When will this stop? Sure, manufacturers love to use such marketing BS numbers that might even rely on some formula or ‘standard’ developed several decades ago. But why do blogs and journalists copy this?

It’s 12 TB. And it’s 2019. Both the important file formats and filesystems implement compression on their own in the meantime. So depending on the data source chances are great today that only 12.x TB will fit on such a 12 TB cartridge. A 2.5 compression ratio is rather unrealistic these days or just an indication that there’s a lot of room for improvement at the data source (use more suitable file formats or filesystems).

A different topic is dealing with tons of small files on rather inefficient filesystems vs tape. By leaving filesystem restrictions behind (every file occupies a whole block) especially small files can be stored more efficiently even without any compression applied. But the same applies to creating archive files (e.g. via tar) and/or using virtual tape libraries on disk.

willy
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willy

Exactly what I was about to say. Storing images, sounds, videos, git repositories and compressed source archives stays at the native capacity. At least nowadays they make the effort of writing the native capacity with a readable font size. I remember the DDS3 era where you almost had to look up the tape’s datasheet to figure its real size!

Regardless, tapes remain really interesting for the long term. Usually the problem with disks is to find a controller. Who these days is able to read an MFM disk from 25 years ago ? Even if you managed to keep a controller, you don’t have a machine with the ISA bus nor the operating system capable of driving this controller anymore. With tapes, all the electronics is external. You “just” need the heads and mechanics compatibility and it can run on any future interface with any OS available by then. Dealing with older formats for newer drives should cause little to no pain.

tkaiser
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tkaiser

> Who these days is able to read an MFM disk from 25 years ago ?

Well, just 25 years ago I would think about SCSI/IDE instead but of course I got your point. 🙂

I’ve personally dealt with DDS, DLT, AIT and LTO and only the latter two technologies weren’t PITA. Also I’ve no idea how hard it would be to get a (reliably working) drive for the first three today. And I also wouldn’t trust in vendor’s promises one would be able to read the tapes in 30 years. Don’t want to be in the same situation as those guys then: https://strandgames.com/blog/magnetic-scrolls-games-source-code-recovered

IMO if there’s archive data it needs to be copied over to new media at least every few years (checking carefully the status of the archive’s contents, e.g. file formats used) and I personally wouldn’t want to miss data integrity features provided by modern attempts like ZFS/btrfs. That said no tape any more in use in any installation since disk based storage is that cheap if it’s about just a few hundred TB.

But with video it’s a different thing, the amounts of data to be archived there are huge. And for them it’s simply exchanging older LTO drives with newer ones, copying over the data and they got 2 or 1.5* the amount of data with almost the same hardware (two or four LTO-8 drives add only a little bit of costs to a huge tape roboter).

* 1.5 increase in capacity: LTO-8 drives combined with LTO-7 tapes allow for 9 TB native capacity.

willy
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willy

For banks, insurance etc it’s different: archive old contracts on tapes. It’s just a bet on future. If 25 years later a customer sues you over anything, you have a high probability of being able to reload the old tape and recover his old contract and prove him wrong. If you lose, you just pay him and that’s done. But most of the time you win and it’s no big deal. Anyway any data has a value that can be monetized at some points. Tape drive sellers are in the same business 😉

Member

I really wish drives were cheaper.

Mother Russia
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Mother Russia

Big brother needs to record every packet sent or received

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Michael Hinn

The beauty of this technology is that it writes your data on 32 separate tracks on different areas of the tape. you could rip 10 ft out and splice and lose no data.