Object storage + LTFS tape NAS = Spectra Logic's Black Pearl

Here at Storage Networking World (SNW) Europe in Frankfurt tape library maker Spectra Logic is taking the opportunity to showcase its Black Pearl “deep storage” in Europe.

The concept is an interesting one that takes Linear Tape File System (LTFS) and front ends it with REpresentational State Transfer (REST), essentially an object access method that uses HTTP.

There must be questions over the marriage of one eminently sensible technology that has failed to set the world on fire – LTFS – with another – object storage – but Spectra Logic seems very clear about the intended market for Black Pearl, namely service providers that want to deliver a tape-based Glacier-like service that is necessarily built on a very large-scale (1PB-plus).

The heart of the Black Pearl scheme is a hardware appliance that contains only flash storage and is the location where incoming data is processed for storage in the back-end tape libraries. Here is where Spectra Logic’s Deep Simple Storage Services (DS3) interface carries out REST indexing of LTFS instances in which each tape cartridge contains its own file system.

DS3 is based on Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) – and is fully compatible with it – but with support for bulk, sequential media and removable media support.

Spectra Logic claims retrieve times from the back-end tape library of between 55 seconds and 80 seconds – it uses flash as a cache in the Black Pearl box – and a cost per GB of between 9 cents and 14 cents, which is compares to a cost of 45 cents per GB  on its nTier Verde archive disk product. It also claims Black Pearl’s deep storage can tie tape to web-scale processing, such as with Hadoop, which can write a copy to the Spectra Logic archive.

The Boulder, Colorado-based firm says it has five cloud service providers in its beta programme that want to offer services similar to Amazon’s Glacier long-term cloud storage.

But why tie object storage to LTFS? After all, they are both technologies that have failed to set the world on fire, despite a number of apparently clear benefits.

Spectra Logic chief marketing officer Molly Rector, said: “LTFS is not a product; it’s an enabler, and it’s aimed at smaller use cases than we’re targeting with Black Pearl. What we’re aiming at is a simple to use storage tier and that just happens to be object based.”

Black Pearl will be available in December 2013.