The New Enterprise Drive: A Deeper Look into Spectra’s TAOS Feature for LTO Tape Libraries

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Spectra Logic expands LTO’s functionality with its Time-based Access Ordering System (TAOS)

When Spectra announced new enhancements for tape storage systems earlier this month, it became clear to anyone paying attention that tape technology is not a thing of the past. Between the Tape Storage Council’s 2018 tape technology memo and recent articles on how tape is changing the game, tape storage systems have generated a lot of buzz. With decades of tape expertise, Spectra continues to release features that leverage tape technology to advance modern workflows. The latest example of this is TAOS or Time-Based Access Order System for LTO drives.

Historically, recalling multiple small files from tape has taken longer than necessary due to the linear way that files are read. Retrieving non-consecutive files from a tape can result in large seek times between file reads due to potentially long distances between files. An LTO-8 tape, for instance, appears as a 200 km long tape, which threads down and back to read data.

Spectra Logic developed TAOS to create an optimal ordering of read requests that results in an up to four times improvement in overall time for files that are less than 100MB in size.

Over the last few years, enterprise tape technologies like IBM’s TS11x0 and Oracle’s T10000 have used similar functionalities to optimize recall times, but this type of tape enhancement has never before been present in LTO-based automated tape systems.  “This is a feature which has been on enterprise tape drives – with a two to three times price premium, but has never been available in open systems tape before,” said Matt Starr, Spectra CTO.

“Before TAOS, recalls from LTO tape were read in the same linear pattern in which they were written,” explains David Feller, vice president of product management and solutions engineering at Spectra Logic. “TAOS enables the software to get the files off of tape in the most logical order. When the system receives a read request, it first determines where each file starts and ends physically on the tape to create an optimal ordering of reads.”

For example, recalling 300 100MB files from an LTO-8 tape would have taken approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. When using TAOS, the same recall only takes about 55 minutes with the exact same LTO-8 drives and media, making the total tape access and data recall time about three times faster.

In addition to improving performance of restore operations, TAOS reduces wear to tape media and tape drives. The enhancement leads to up to 13 times less tape traveling across the head in the drive for the same files that need recalled.  So the less tape that runs past the head, the longer the tape drive and media will last, improving overall system reliability and reducing costs.

This and the many other tape innovations in development demonstrate the long-term commitment to tape archive technology that Spectra Logic provides to its enterprise customers worldwide. TAOS is a proprietary Spectra logic feature that will be included with the Spectra® T950 and TFinity® ExaScale Tape Libraries.  For existing customers, the feature will also be available through a simple library software update, requiring no additional hardware. TAOS will initially be released with IBM’s High Performance Storage System (HPSS) and HPE’s Data Management Framework (DMF) storage software later this year, with other ISV software packages to follow.

Check out the “Time-Based Access Order System for Increasing File Read Throughput on Tape” white paper to learn more about this development.

Fred Moore, founder and president of Horison Information Strategies, discussed what he learned about Spectra’s tape enhancements first-hand at the 2018 Large Tape Conference here.