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Quantum launches ‘scale-out’ i6H rackmount tape library

Aimed at hyperscalers and enterprises, the LTO-9 system comes in a rackmount form factor that can be deployed anywhere in the datacentre as part of a common pool of storage

Quantum has launched the Scalar i6H tape storage system, aimed at hyperscalers and enterprises that want to use tape to serve data to users.

It comes in rack unit format, rather than as a tape library, with the idea being that it is easy to install and will provide very high capacity storage at a very low cost per gigabyte.

Tape storage comes with relatively long access times, but the i6H is aimed at use cases where relatively infrequently used data is required again and served to faster media for more frequent access.

The i6H is based on Quantum’s Scalar i6 systems, which were launched in 2016 and are aimed at customers that want archive storage for unstructured data available via Quantum’s StorNext file system or the “tape NAS” linear tape file system (LTFS).

The i6H ships as a 48U datacentre rack and will use Linear Tape-Open (LTO) tapes, of which the most recent generation is LTO-9

LTO-9 provides a 50% capacity increase over LTO-8, which was less than the intended doubling of capacity as development was speeded up to meet market demand. That gives LTO-9 capacity of 18TB (terabytes) native, and a maximum of 45TB per tape cartridge when compressed.

LTO tape cartridges are used with the Quantum Redundant Array of Independent Libraries (RAIL) architecture for scale-out deployment of tape.

RAIL allows for a modular method of deployment, which sees one rack deployed at a time, with others added when needed. The racks can be placed wherever there is free space in the datacentre, as would be the case with any drives in a shared capacity pool.

Quantum RAIL performance and data protection is offered by the patented erasure coding scheme used in its ActiveScale object storage software.

Quantum developed the i6H with the company’s hyperscaler customers, said Bruno Hald, vice-president and general manager for secondary storage with Quantum. “We now have seven hyperscale and web-scale accounts globally that have collectively deployed over 35EB [exabytes] of capacity in hundreds of Quantum tape systems around the world, including many Scalar i6H systems that are already deployed in some of the world’s largest data archives.”

StorNext is Quantum’s proprietary file system that allows simultaneous access to large files storage and can act as a tier of storage to which users have access.

Quantum customers can monitor potentially hundreds of tape systems continuously with connection to Quantum Cloud-Based Analytics software. They can also periodically check tape integrity with Scalar Extended Data Lifecycle Management (EDLM) policy-based tape scanning.

The Scalar i6H offers anti-ransomware functionality in the Scalar Ransom Block, which allows administrators to remotely put cartridges beyond physical reach in terms of reads and writes, but still allows the robot read head to verify a tape is in the library. Tape is a technology that can easily provide an “air gap” between datacentre systems and stored data, with the possibility of a physical distance to the media.

Despite decades-long warnings that tape is past its sell-by date, the medium still retains benefits and continues to develop. Benefits include high capacity, rapid throughput for sequential reads and writes (faster than disk), low cost per gigabyte, an air gap for security, energy cost savings compared to constantly spinning disk, long life of up to 30 years with maintenance, and better density in terms of floor space than other media.

According to the Tape Storage Council, tape capacity shipments in 2019 were about four times those of 10 years previously.

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