Spectra Logic improves LTO tape recall time 3x, increases tape life with new TAOS enhancement

While the Spectra Logic TAOS system to improve LTO recall times is the high-profile news here, they also announced zoning to improve robot retrieval performance, a new tool to make it easier to load takes in bulk into libraries, a higher-end maintenance plan for customers who want to train their own people to do repairs, and a new lifetime media data integrity guarantee.

Matt Starr, Spectra Logic’s CTO.

Storage vendor Spectra Logic has made a series of enhancements to their enterprise tape libraries. The headline one is TAOS [Time-Based Access Ordering System] which significantly improves recall times for LTO tapes, and also reduces wear on the tape and the drive, extending their life.  In addition. zoning has been added to set a library territory for each robot in the dual-robot TFinity ExaScale to improvements. TeraPack Affinity loads up to 10 drives from a single TeraPack with intelligent move queues to optimize performance in the TFinity ExaScale. Spectra Logic also announced ASM Platinum, a maintenance plan for customers with highly skilled staff on site, and Spectra Certified Media, a lifetime data integrity guarantee that warrants that all Spectra will be free from the dust associated with new tape that produces initially higher error rates.

“TAOS is a huge leap forward in the way that tape works,” said Matt Starr, Spectra Logic’s CTO. “This is a feature which has been on enterprise tape drives – with a price premium of 2.5-3x, but it has never been in open systems tape before. It’s the latest advance in accessing the tape on the drive. When I started in this business, drives were the size of a washing machine, and the old ones read one cylinder at a time  – 1 MB per second in the 1990s. As they matured, we added more software to the driver stack, and we eventually figured out that if we put code in the disk drive, we would know the disk map and could do multiple reads. From there, we developed the strategy routine of reading the drives in the most logical order.”

TAOS brings this functionality to LTO tape.

“An LTO tape appears as a 200 km long tape, which you have to thread down and back to read.” Starr said. “It doesn’t get the files off the tape in the most logical order.  What this does is similar to an analogy of a travelling salesman, making calls to the nearest neighbor. You don’t go to houses in alphabetical or numerical order – you go to the next closest by time. This technology is a couple years old in enterprise drives. But only the top users had it, not the open systems guys. This gives the software the ability to read the tape in the most optimal way, so the data comes back faster – about 3x faster. And as a side benefit, the less movement there is, the longer the life, so the less tape that runs past the head, the longer the tape drive and media will last.”

Spectra Logic also introduced zoning, allocating a library territory for each robot in their dual-robot TFinity ExaScale. The tape library achieves greater performance without partitions as the two robots move media freely within the tape library.

“Tape archiving is another area which had needed more innovation,” Starr said. “It’s getting the data back that’s an issue. It’s that pullback that we want to make faster – specifically getting the tape to the drive faster, which allows for the support of more physical tape drives. Zoning allows the software system to make sure the robots never get in the way of each other. It puts tapes into a partition – not a hard one – but defined by a hint for the software, which makes the performance faster. The robots not going from the right side to the left side is also less physical wear, so the product lasts longer. It not only saves time but saves wear.”

The new TeraPack Affinity, which loads up to 10 drives from a single TeraPack with intelligent move queues is designed to significantly optimize performance in the TFinity ExaScale.

“These are like filing cabinets for tapes, for up to 10 LTO or 9 IBM TS tapes,” Starr said. “They make it easier to bulk load tapes into Spectra tape libraries.”

The other two parts of the announcement are on the support side. ASM Platinum – with the ASM standing for Assisted Self Maintenance – is a custom maintenance plan designed to allow customers to train their own people to do on-site repair on TFinity ExaScale and T950 Tape Libraries.

“ASM Platinum is for high-security places or ones with very technically competent people who want to be able to do preventative maintenance,” Starr said. “This provides them with maintenance plans, technical account managers and additional, personalized repair training to make their people an an in-house technical staff. It’s a time saver for them, because it means that they don’t have to call us if there is a problem.”

Finally, the company is announcing a Spectra Certified Media lifetime guarantee that warrants both Spectra LTO and IBM TS tape to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for the life of the media.

“We test and clean the media at the factory,” Starr said. “This amounts to insurance for the customer. When tapes are new they have what will be their highest level of dust and debris. In the backup world, this gives a higher error rate. Our cleaning makes it ‘gently used’ so that the first time the customer uses the tape, it will be well broken-in, and will have lowest error rate we can get.”