Optical Storage Provides Archiving Choices

Media companies rely on LTO advances
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ALEXANDRIA, VA—The cloud continues to be hyped as an ideal environment for long-term video storage, but at this year’s NAB several technological advances suggest that cartridge and optical storage solutions will remain viable options for archiving of video. This is because capacity has remained just one part of the greater equation when it comes to storage.

“The biggest issues for most media and entertainment houses with third-party archiving is cost and trust,” said Thomas Coughlin, data storage consultant. “Above a certain scale of archive it can be more economical to buy and support storage infrastructure rather than to lease that infrastructure from a third party.”

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At the 2016 NAB Show, For-A introduced the LTS-70, an LTO-7 open standards linear tape server that can store up to 6TB of data. The issue of trust is being dealt with using encryption, added Coughlin, but he noted that that there are still some lingering doubts about long-term security.

The other factor is one of cost, and here is where these new advances can be seen to have notable advantages over the cloud, especially when discussing cold storage or content that is not accessed very often and where higher latency is acceptable.

“For these applications the cost of storage is more important than the performance of the storage,” added Coughlin. “As a consequence, slower access storage technologies such as optical discs, magnetic tape and hard disk drives are generally used, rather than the faster SSDs.”

Optical discs and magnetic tape also have lower operating costs since the media does not use power unless it is actively used.

“However, they also have somewhat higher latency due to robotic media access in a robotic library system,” noted Coughlin. “Hence we might use HDDs for ‘warm’ archives and optical discs or magnetic tape for ‘cold’ archives.”

TO THE TAPE
Linear Tape-Open (LTO), a magnetic tape data storage technology, continues to be a viable option for archiving of video, as was noted by last year’s announcements of the LTO-7 specifications. This latest generation of LTO offered backward compatibility to LTO-6 and 5 cartridges, while an LTO-7 drive can write data to both generation 7 and 6 cartridges. This archival system has also realized 15TB capacity, double from the previous generation.

“The increase in storage is very important but so is the backward compatibility,” said Shawn Brume, business line executive for data protection and retention at IBM, one of the principal supporters of the LTO format. “Our customers will be able to keep this around for 100 years and can retrieve this data without extraordinary efforts.”

LTO-7 will also be able ensure that backups of content can be made quickly as LTO-7 offers 300MB per second record times. “You can literally stream 8K to the LTO drive,” added Brume. “Just as you can stream it you can create an archived copy.”

This tape-based technology now offers other advantages that make it seem a lot less like tape.

“This includes partitioning as well as dragging and dropping like a disc-based storage system,” explained Laura Loredo, worldwide marketing product manager at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “This has provided a new application for tape, and makes it a very cost-effective solution for archiving.”

The backers of LTO have also laid out a roadmap through its 10th generation that will see the format offering up to 120TB of compressed video.

VENDORS ON BOARD
At this year’s NAB Show, broadcast video and audio technology vendor For-A introduced the LTS-70, a LTO-7 open standards linear tape server that can store up to 6TB of data, along with its latest multi-codex archiving recorder, the LTR-200HS7.

The LTS-70 is a filed based device that doesn’t record video, according to Jay Shinn, vice president of For-A Americas. “But it is ideal for our customers who want to ensure that archival material on cartridge instead of in the cloud. It is a cost-effective solution, as LTO-7 cartridges are around $125.”

This LTO server allows LTO tape files to be read and written, while also offering backwards compatibility on the network via FTP, and also accepts high-speed interfaces including 10G Ethernet or USB 3.1. It can also throughput large amounts of data including 4K video, and can simultaneously write to both LTO and hard disk drives.

For-A’s LTR-200HS7 operates as a standalone video recorder with video input, encoding, backup/archiving to LTO tape and video output.

“This is very much for baseband video,” added Shinn. “It looks like a tape machine and operates like one. These devices offer the best of both worlds, as it provides a physical media that you can walk down the hall or still allow users in the production facility to do a file transfer and retain media while still putting it on the cloud.”

XenData also used the recent NAB Show to introduce its DX-240 near-line disk array system, which provides continuous backup to LTO-7 cartridges. The unit further supports network attached storage (NAS) architecture so that files can be stored on high-performance RAID arrays while simultaneously being written to a direct-attached LTO-7 library.

“It is super economical if you want to take your cart offline,” said Phil Storey, CEO of XenData. “It does take a while to restore if you urgently need the restored content, but it is faster than most cloud-based solutions.”

It can also ensure multiple backups, added Storey. “NAS is a great way to have easy access to the content, but you are vulnerable and could lose everything in a fire or flood. This ensures you have a backup of the content.”

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Earlier this year Panasonic announced that it had developed “freeze-ray,” an optical disc-based data archive system in collaboration with social media giant Facebook. The ability to backup to a cartridge can also make it easy, and affordable, to share that data with other production facilities or locations in cases where time is not of the essence.

“FedEx makes a low-cost way to move large amounts of content, and it is a safe way to transport a second version of that content,” noted Storey. “Most customers aren’t actually using it to transport content, but the option is there. It is a reliable way to ensure the content is protected too.”

Because of the continuous backup functionality it ensures that the content is actually backed up.

“That is the weakest point, the time it takes to do a full backup of content, and this is why continuous backup is the way to go,” added Storey. “The other part of it is that content can’t be hacked because it is nearly impossible to overwrite content on tape.”

Last month, XenData introduced the SXL-6500, a highly scalable digital video archive system that is a turnkey, rackmount archive. It combines the SX0550 archive server with an Oracle SL150’s expandable robotic LTO-7 library.

When fully expanded it can accommodate up to 300 slots with near-line LTO capacity of 1,800TB, or 75,000 hours of HD video. Users can create a folder structure on the archive as if it were a disk-based server or disk-based NAS; and since it as an object storage interface, it is compatible with most media asset management systems including Avid Interplay, eMAM and MAMs from Apace, axle Video, Evertz, Dalet and Metus.

SEEING THE WAY TO OPTICAL
Tape won’t be the only archiving alternative to the cloud. LTO-7 will see competition from the second generation of the Optical Disc Archive System, which Sony and Panasonic jointly developed. It has also seen a significant increase in storage capacity, where a single cartridge can now offer 3.3TB of storage.

In addition, the Generation 2 version utilizes an 8-channel optical drive unit, which doubles the read/write speeds over the previous generation. This allows for it to accommodate 4K video in real time.

“It offers read speeds that peak at about 300 Mbps,” said Alan Gagliardotto, senior manager for product management at Sony. “The throughput is about 250 Mbps, so that’s faster than a pipe and more cost-effective.” The cost per gigabyte of the media is about four cents, but cost is just one factor that could make optical an attractive solution for video production facilities.

The shelf life is rated at 100 years, according to Ellen Heine, marketing manager at Sony Electronics. “It is a perfect solution for where you need to archive something for a long time. The media doesn’t need any special environmental conditions, and the discs are incredibly robust.”

It is a non-magnetic media as well, so it can’t easily be erased by accident, and secondary copies can easily be produced.

Earlier this year Panasonic announced that it had developed “freeze-ray,” an Optical Disc-Based Data Archive System in collaboration with social media giant Facebook. This solution was designed to reduce data center operating costs and energy use by providing optimal cold storage on familiar looking discs.

“This is 300 GB on a standard 5 1/2 inch disc that is the same size physically as a CD but can hold much more data,” said Bob Rauh, vice president of business development at Panasonic USA. “The roadmap for this archival disc will take us to 300GB to 500GB to 1TB and beyond within the next decade.”

Panasonic has continued to improve the density of the discs, which has meant putting more bits in a narrow tolerance but that has also helped read/write speeds.

Rauh said this solution provides a much lower cost than cloud-based options, but could also be a good part of a business continuity program.

“These discs are flood resilient and electro-magnetic resistant, while also being robust in many environments where other systems might fail,” Rauh added. “We have a 100-year longevity of discs even if it isn’t kept in pristine condition such as locations with high heat and humidity. We see our optical discs as a good solution to keep your data safe and secure.”