More than Tape: Spectra Certified Media Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2019 at 11:00 am.Written by Branden Gay Magnetic tape is the lowest cost and longest lasting storage medium available. While it is one of the more mature storage mediums on the market, it is still as relevant today as it was in the prime days of the cassette tape. New technologies are introduced each year which provide faster speeds, increased storage capacities, and new access methods. Cloud services, NVMe, and advanced manufacturing processes are pushing the boundaries of Moore’s law and are redefining the limits of hardware and software. Throughout each technological leap and bound, magnetic tape has remained not only relevant, but a superior choice compared to other disruptive or cutting-edge technologies. LTO tape media provides the lowest cost storage medium for organizations that have long-term data storage needs, with solutions available that are less than $.05 / GB (that is a one-time price, not a monthly price). Offline media is also the most energy efficient way to store data. Only the tape drives and robotic mechanisms will require power during operation, allowing for tape archive systems to have the lowest possible watt/TB ratio. In addition to its viability and low cost, tape media provides features not found in other storage technologies due to its offline nature. Threats like ransomware or general network intrusions can cost organizations thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Storing data offline is the safest way to protect it, providing protection from internal and external access. Why Spectra Certified Media? Spectra Certified Media raises the bar further, and bundles all of the traditional value of tape with a higher level of management, durability, and insight. Spectra Logic has been developing the Certified Media process for nearly 20 years. When customers order Spectra Certified Media, it arrives pre-labeled with a lifetime guarantee. When used in a Spectra Logic tape library*, Spectra Certified Media generates Media Lifecycle Management (MLM) data, allowing the system software to proactively monitor the health of each tape cartridge. Spectra Certified Media can extend the life of tape drives by 25 percent and will improve the overall efficiency of an archive workflow. *Spectra Logic tape libraries do not require the use of Spectra Certified Media, and Spectra Certified Media is compatible with other manufacturer’s tape libraries. The Process First, acclimated media is labeled and reprogrammed. Each piece of tape media contains a Media Auxiliary Memory (MAM) chip, which is able to store small amounts of data and transmit the information over RFID. Spectra Logic rewrites this chip and inserts 40+ data points about the cartridge, including time since the last write, time since last clean, and available capacity. The MAM data is then used by BlueScale software in Spectra’s tape libraries for Media Lifecycle Management and proactive reporting. Labeled and programmed tapes then enter Spectra’s proprietary cleaning process, called CarbideClean®, where manufacturing debris is cleaned from each tape cartridge. Spectra’s cleaning process provides benefits to both the tape cartridge and tape drives. The Results Data reveals that Spectra Certified Media reduces the overall rewrite rate of tape drives. When writing data, the advanced read/write heads in LTO and TS11X00 Technology drives manipulate tiny ferrite particles which are embedded in the tape substrate. It is common for tape drives to make tiny write errors when arranging these particles. These tiny write errors will remain uncorrected, taking up space on the tape and requiring a tape drive to perform the same write job twice. While write errors are expected in tape drives, they have the possibility to reduce the predicted mean time between failure (MTBF) for tape drives and will incrementally add time to an archiving workflow. Spectra’s process is able to reduce the average rewrite rate of the tape drive, improving overall write performance of a system and reducing wear on the tape drive. In a test of LTO-7 tape cartridges, Spectra Logic CarbideClean media shows a reduction of up to 27.2% in rewrites on media when the full tape is written, and has found similar results with TS1155 media. With each data set being only 5MB, the rewrite rate improvement translates to a 20 percent reduction in drive head use, during write jobs. BlueScale and MLM Spectra tape libraries are powered by the BlueScale management software. BlueScale includes many proactive monitoring features which help organizations maintain their tape libraries and preserve their data. BlueScale uses Media Lifecycle Management (MLM) data to create a media health score, which is easily seen through the interfaces’ stoplight icons, where a red, yellow, or green light is applied to each cartridge. Being able to quickly identify the status and health of a tape cartridge allows data center staff to more easily make decisions about the tape media and focus their time on other matters. Lifetime Guarantee Spectra Certified Media is offered with a lifetime guarantee. Spectra’s media return policy is simple and easy and does not require the layers of red-tape found with other media vendors. If a customer finds a Spectra Certified Media cartridge to be defective, Spectra will replace the cartridge, no questions asked. Conclusion Spectra Certified Media is more than just tape. Spectra’s Certified Media process ensures that every single tape shipped to our customers meets the same high standards and delivers the added benefits of reduced drive rewrites, is free from defects, and protected by a lifetime guarantee. For more information on Spectra Certified Media, please click here.