More than Tape: Spectra Certified Media

Magnetic tape is the lowest cost and longest lasting storage medium available for long-term data preservation. 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. Coupled with advanced media management technology, magnetic tape delivers the highest quality media – an essential component of a sound data archive.

Photo: Tape LibraryLTO 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 (a one-time price, not a monthly price). Offline media is also the most energy-efficient way to store data. Only tape drives and robotic mechanisms require power during operation, meaning tape archive systems have the lowest possible watt/TB ratio.

In addition to its viability and low cost, tape media provides Air-Gap features not found in other storage technologies due to its offline nature. Threats like ransomware or general network intrusions can cost organizations 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 the traditional value of tape with a higher level of management, durability and insight.

Seal: Certified Tape MediaSpectra 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 tape system software to proactively monitor the health of each tape cartridge. Spectra Certified Media reduces rewrites, improves write performance and reduces wear, extending the life of tape drives and improving the overall efficiency of an archive workflow.

*Spectra Logic tape libraries do not require the use of Spectra Certified Media. Spectra Certified Media is compatible with other manufacturer’s tape libraries.

The Process
First, media is acclimated to the ideal environment for tape use in Spectra’s manufacturing facility. 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 uses 40+ data points about the cartridge, including time since the last write, time since last clean, errors and retries during reads and writes, 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 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. After each tape is cleaned it is verified in a standard tape drive to guarantee it meets this higher quality thresholds used for Spectra Certified media. The MAM chip is then updated to enable MLM functionality and health tracking.

The Results
Data reveals that Spectra Certified Media reduces the overall rewrite error rate of tape drives. When writing data, the advanced read/write heads in LTO and IBM’s TS11XX tape 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 reduces 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 tape cartridges, Spectra Logic CarbideClean media showed a reduction in rewrites on media when the full tape is written and has found similar results with IBM’s TS11XX media.

The Software Advantage
Spectra tape libraries are powered by management software that includes proactive monitoring features which help organizations maintain their tape library and preserve their data. Media Lifecycle Management (MLM) data creates a media health score, which is accessible through the interfaces’ stoplight icons, where a red, yellow, or green indicator is applied to each cartridge. The risks to storing data on media for a long time could get higher without the technology that provides continuous oversight on such media. Being able to quickly identify the status and health of a tape cartridge with Spectra’s MLM allows data center teams to easily make decisions about 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.

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 a reduction in drive rewrites, defect-free media, and protection by a lifetime guarantee. Spectra Certified Media is a key element in ensuring data protection for the long-term. Learn more about Spectra Certified Media here.

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