Spectra Logic touts ‘revolutionary’ new ArcticBlue nearline disk storage system

An extension of the company’s BlackPearl object-based storage gateway, ArcticBlue provides disk archiving at 10 cents per GB – close to the price of disk. It also has a seven year lifespan, compared to three for traditional disk archiving, and works at close to the performance of nearline disk.

ArcticBlue NOTOP insert

Spectra Logic’s new ArcticBlue system (with top removed)

BOULDER, CO — Spectra Logic has unveiled what it is calling a revolution in storage technology with its new ArcticBlue nearline disk storage system, which provides disk archiving that lasts more than twice as long as anything on the market today, at half the cost.

“We are talking about a revolution in storage technology, which is something different for both Spectra Logic and for the industry,” said David Feller, Spectra Logic’s Senior Director, Data Management, to an audience of analysts and media at Spectra Logic’s Spectra Summit 2015 here.

Spectra Logic is a long-time tape manufacturer that first got into disk in 2012 with its Verde NAS box, and while that product was not a great success, it led to engineering advances that were realized in the Verde DPE, which the company announced a month ago and for which it has high expectations. ArcticBlue extends Spectra Logic’s BlackPearl object-based storage gateway that the company introduced in 2013. ArcticBlue sits behind the BlackPearl gateway, providing an S3 object storage interface that Spectra Logic says creates what amounts to a new category of storage.

“The goal is the longevity and near cost of tape with the accessibility of disk, which sounds simple but took a tremendous amount of engineering,” Feller said. ArcticBlue is aimed at having a seven year life, as opposed to the typical three years of disk. It has close to the performance of nearline disk. And while it’s not quite as inexpensive as tape, it is close.

“It comes in as low at 10 cents a GB – and you don’t have to buy multiple PB to get that price,” Feller said.

“This is an enormous advantage to us as a channel partner,” said Bo Kennedy, Director of Infrastructure Architecture at Houston-based OvationData. “I can go to a customer and say I can sell them long term deep disk archive at 10 cents a GB and they can keep it for seven years without having to swap it out. It will be a long time before the capacities of shingled disks will be anywhere close to that. It is also very easy to configure and simple to manage, although you do need a tech to install it because it is a lot of disks. The only real downsize is it is an object system, so has to have an object interface, but if you don’t have that, you can just put a Verde box in front of it.”

ArcticBlue also leverages Advanced Bucket Management, a new feature also announced at Spectra Summit which facilitates free tiering for both ArcticBlue and Spectra Logic’s tape libraries.

“It lets you set up rules and policies so single put to a single bucket can create multiple copies and put a timer on how long you want to keep the data,” Feller said. “We don’t charge for this feature, which essentially provides free tiering.”

The extended seven-year lifespan, which Feller said will eliminate the three year obsolescence cycle of traditional disk archives, comes from what Spectra Logic is calling intelligent idling.

“This extends the life of drives by powering them down when not in use,” he said. “That’s been done before, but not well.” Spectra Logic uses very wide bands, so ones not being used can be powered down, which saves energy as well. When they are powered up, they facilitate mass random reads to increase performance.

“The majority of our target accounts are mostly read applications, said Matt Starr, Spectra Logic’s Chief Technology Officer. “Reads make up 99 per cent of applications, while writes are one per cent. ArcticBlue can power up all the drives, instead of waiting for one at a time, as with tape. This means with large archives, that the data comes back in big chunks.”

Kennedy indicated that OvationData’s primary use case for ArcticBlue will be for data that customers rarely touch, but want to or are required to keep. Starr indicated that he sees this kind of archiving as having a broader use case in a world where storage data size is exploding to such an extent.

“I always put my data right into archive,” he said. “That’s my second copy. Keeping a backup for seven years while you also have an archive is a mindset that has to change.”

ArcticBlue – like all of Spectra Logic’s products – is not aimed at primary storage however.

“We focus on the second and third tier,” Feller said. “We aren’t in that primary storage market and we have no intention of being in that market.” The company has increasingly developed more focused vertical strategies, and this is something that will continue with ArcticBlue.

“Vertical markets are a rather recent approach for us, because ten years ago, we were a lot smaller and this was more difficult,” Feller stated. They have a significant presence in media and entertainment, federal government, and high performance computing, and are developing a presence in two new verticals for them – private cloud storage and video surveillance.

“Private cloud storage has become very successful for us,” he said. “Video surveillance has been going through the same type of tech changes that media and entertainment did earlier, like moving from analog to digital, and using new types of cameras.”

Vertical strategy is also critical to Spectra Logic’s partnering strategy, something that will continue with ArcticBlue. About three-quarters of the company’s sales go through partners, but that accounts for the vast majority of customers.

“About 25 per cent of our business is direct – but that’s four customers – four very large customers that we have to put a lot of energy behind,” said Brian Grainger, Spectra Logic’s Chief Sales Officer.

Grainger stressed that their partner strategy is based on verticals, which is as consistent a strategy in Canada as it is in the U.S.

“I opened up Canada when I started here about 15 years ago, and today we probably have 20 good quality, active partners in Canada,” he said. “Four or five are focused on media and entertainment. Several are government, and all of these are based in Ottawa.”

Grainger said that ArcticBlue will be revolutionary from a sales perspective as well as a technology one.

“It will help us address that part of the market that has chosen to move away from tape – but who like the price of tape,” he said.

ArcticBlue will begin shipping in December 2015. Pricing for a 48-drive system begins at $USD 49,920. A full-rack configuration delivers 6.1PB raw capacity, before compression of data.