Product Reliability: What is the Holy Grail?

I hate when things break.  Not only is it often costly, but it is always time consuming and frustrating.  So, product reliability is very important to me and I suspect most people feel the same way.   

 In the IT world this need for reliability is multiplied many times over.  In fact, reliability is often cited as one of the most important requirements when considering an IT solution.  It has truly become a cliché to say that IT systems need to be available 7X24X365.

 On the surface it would seem that tape reliability is not as critical to IT operations.  In most cases a failed backup due to a broken tape drive or bad media would not be an urgent situation. In fact, it is often ignored.  The trouble comes when data recovery from that tape is needed to keep a mission critical system going and the backup was never created.   Then a tough situation has gone from “bad to worse,” and that is an understatement.   Consider for example, the estimated cost of down time for a Financial institution is $2.8 Million per hour, a Retail corporation comes in at $2.2 million per hour and downtime costs for the Health industry is $1.4 million per hour. [1] These figures are staggering. Read More

Federal Buying Season Year-End Tips for Buying Storage

It’s that time of the year again. Federal IT administrators are sorting through fall-out funds, small business set asides and overall budgets in a mad race to refresh their data centers with new equipment—all by September 30. Here are a few tips to consider as your year end approaches.
1. Stock up. With extra budget in arms length, it’s a great time to replenish your supply of tapes and drives. It’s a great idea to be prepared in the case of a drive failure or media corruption. Spectra Logic Federal reserves tapes and drives during this time specifically to meet federal buying season needs.
2. Get faster and store more with LTO-5. LTO-5 drives and media are available, and we’ve seen high adoption rates and easy, smooth integration in the field. LTO-3 users can now enjoy a 3.75x increase in tape capacity and a 1.75x increase in throughput on LTO-5; and LTO-4 customers can almost double their tape capacity while enjoying blazing transfer rates up to 1TB/hour compressed to/from tape, all by migrating to LTO-5.
3. Revisit your disaster recovery plan. At the end of a calendar year, we set a New Year’s Resolution. In that spirit, the end of Federal buying season is a good time to revisit, test and revise your DR plan. Planning and preparation is the best advocate to support your continuity of operations (COOP) initiatives.
4. Add Spectra to your wish list. Spectra Logic is classified as a small business, and twenty percent of our overall corporate revenue is generated by Federal customers in more than 200 agencies. Our backup and archive products are manufactured in the USA. We have been listed in the top 10 percent of revenue generators on GSA contract #47QTCA20D0064 for three consecutive years, and were recently granted a 5-year contract extension (see our recent press release). In addition to GSA, Spectra Logic is also listed several other federal purchasing contracts, including SEWP, NetCents and ITES-2H, among others.
Spectra knows the challenges that Federal IT administrators face and is here to work with you to create the best backup and archiving plan to meet your agency’s unique needs.  Further questions? Contact me directly at markwe@spectralogic.com.  Read More

Spectra Develops the Latin American Market

Beginning in FY10 (July 2009) Spectra began its foray into the Latin American market, which includes Mexico, Central America, and South America. Prior to this, Spectra had a few clients only in Mexico, most notably Mexico's major oil exploration and processing company.

In order to break into the Central and South America markets, we needed to find potential distributors and clients. In many case we leveraged relationships with our ECO partners like Comvault, Front Porch Digital, and Cray to recommend likely candidates. Currently Spectra has signed distribution partnerships in Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico; we’re working on Chile and Columbia as well. These distribution partners not only sell, but also service, our products. Read More

Green storage and TFinity

I recently had the honour of getting on stage at the Storage Awards 2010 to collect the gong for Green Storage Product of the Year, awarded to the TFinity. The award win wasn’t the first for Spectra Logic over the last few months, but I’m not here to crow about our success (well, maybe just a little).

Instead, the award made me think about the whole Green IT movement and where we currently stand in the UK. The hype around Green IT has far outweighed the traction – in part because Green has been leapt upon by marketeers and the buzz-word brigade, but also because the ‘movement’ pretty much met the global economic troubles head-on as soon as it started to gain any momentum. Read More

Channel Bling: a Year in Review

Spectra just closed out our best fiscal year in the company’s history and launched into Fiscal Year 2011 in July! We owe this in large part to our channel partners, an ever growing set of storage integrators dedicated to the Spectra brand. And of course to the channel marketing team, a team that continues to impress with their dedication and creativity in working with our partners. Obviously I’m not afraid to brag, so here goes. In the past year the channel marketing team added well over a dozen new programs, we won a 5-Star Partner Program award from Everything Channel, and were recognized across the board in marketing and technical leadership awards. Read More

Primary Disk Deduplication’s Impact on Backup

George Crump posed an interesting question when he asked if primary storage deduplication will kill archive and backup.  It is a great question, and one we should explore.  If you don’t want to read my ramblings, my short answer is no. 

There is a lot more to archive and backup than simply storing a lot of data, something deduplication has proven it can do well.  Backed up and archived data needs to be cataloged, indexes and managed through its life or retention.  That’s one of the reasons we don’t use tar and dump commands much these days.  Snapshots can remove much of the recovery burden from alternate storage devices.  I have seen customers recover almost all single file restores from snapshots.  But they never served as a replacement for backups.   As George said, we sleep better at night when copies of our data are on different systems.  There are lots of reasons for that.  We all worry about a bad firmware load.  If you have all your data on one array (or replicated to an identical one) a bad firmware release could wipe you out.  And of course there are physical failures. No matter how well designed a system is, something external can happen.  In the years I was in the field, I heard some unbelievable external failure stories where an non-IT event started the failure.   (Maybe I should start collecting them). Read More

Crying Wolf Over Data Breaches: How Active Archive Environments Can Help

The high importance of data protection is top of mind these days – specifically in light of some high profile cases of data loss in the UK. News of some potentially impending legislation this side of the pond has again drawn attention to the issue of how companies look after customer data.

The story that caught my eye is here – and covers news that a European Commission review of data laws will require data-breach notification from a wide range of businesses. Initially this will be aimed at telcos but there are no reasons I can see why the legislation will not be extended to other businesses. When we talk data breaches we’re often talking about firewalls, DMZs, access control, encryption technology – the standard tools and techniques used to secure data within the corporate network. However, I also think this is very much a storage story as well – specifically in terms of how customers archive sensitive data.   If this legislation is passed we will need to find a happy balance between vigilance and pragmatism. What we don’t need is a situation where every single potential data breach is reported, causing panic every time there is the slightest possibility of information falling into the wrong hands. This will result in a situation very much like that faced by the ‘Boy who cried wolf’. People will soon turn off, and then the legislation becomes meaningless.  We need a system whereby organisations have a measured approach to assessing the extent of any potential breach and what data may have been compromised. If we are going to achieve this balance then companies will have to put in place the procedures and technologies to give them a very granular view of what data is stored where. Helping customers achieve this for archived data is one of the reasons why Spectra Logic   became a founding member of the Active Archive Alliance. AAA has been set up to address some of the barriers which stop IT departments achieving the kind of satisfactory archiving architecture described above.   Much of the confusion around archiving has been caused by conflicting messages put out by vendors as well as a lack of integration between technologies at various levels of the overall archiving stack. Active archive environments are a better way to classify, manage and route data. From the point of creation, data in an active archive can be classified as sensitive (if necessary) and then managed within a framework of policies which govern where and how it should be stored, including the level of protection it should be given.   If Active Archives can help customers achieve these levels of granularity in the governance of archived data then we should be able to find a balance which makes this forthcoming legislation enforceable and valuable. Ideally we will get to the stage where data-breaches simply cannot happen but that is unrealistic. What should be realistic is having IT departments know exactly what data is where within their infrastructure and how it is being stored. This should ensure that we’re not inundated with ‘false-positive’ warnings and that when a company cries “Wolf!” the villagers lock their doors!

More Storage Space, Please

I am amazed at how easy it is for people to consume all of their available storage space—and how quickly we can do it.  Just looking at my own storage situation, it is remarkable how much “stuff” I have to store; a snow blower, coolers, lots of car parts, bike parts, camping gear and who knows what else.   My old storage shed was recently hit by a tree, so I had to replace it this month.  I purchased the biggest one allowed by city zoning regulations, and already…. I realize I should have gone bigger. 

  Storing data can be pretty similar.  No matter how much space you have, the data manages to grow to fill it.  Sometimes, the data starts to outgrow the new system before it is even installed.  The growth can seem exponential when you are managing data backup and archive processes, where 1 TB of primary data can grow to 20 TB of backup data, thus, the value of Deduplication.   Why do we have all of this data to begin with, and what we should do with it long term?, This might be the topic for a future blog post, but today, let’s focus on knowing we need space to store it and how to address that need with disk. Data center space constraints and a focus on cost savings cause storage admins to seek efficient, high density backup and archive disk solutions.  Spectra Logic’s new higher capacity nTier 700 disk appliance delivers on these requirements.    Most disk arrays have some ability to grow and expand, but at the hidden cost of more rack space.  The Spectra nTier 700 can grow to 60 disks in a single 4U enclosure.  With Spectra Logic’s recent announcement of 2 TB drives in the nTier700, that totals  120 TB of capacity and 16GB of memory in a 4U chassis- for as low as $1.00 per GB.    If you are up against a physical size and/or budgetary limitations in your data center— like I am in my back yard—Spectra Logic can help you scale to fit your needs.   Follow me at www.Twitter.com/3pedal.

The Active Archive Concept: why Tape?

The Active Archive Alliance formation was just announced last week. I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you how the concept originated, evolved and solidified, and why Spectra Logic is participating as a founding member.

I delivered a speech for Spectra Logic at the SC09 show in Portland Oregon in November and realized there is a new market trend that represents real customer needs that are not currently being well addressed for data storage and access.  Unstructured file data is rapidly growing (as we all know),

  but budgets aren’t growing at the pace of data—which leaves customers needing to make a tradeoff between access to the data and budget limitations for new storage purchases. There is a real need for customers to be able to: 1) keep the data being created: 2) access and retrieve the data being created; and, 3) to do so affordably. At the SC09 presentation, I covered how far tape had come and evolved in functionality, reliability and intelligent feature sets over the past decade. A current HPC customer attended my session and mentioned a side conversation that took place with other attendees just after my Q&A. The prospect was curious to know if recent advancements in tape make it the perfect storage to pair with a file system interface to maintain access to data in their archive. They needed all of their data online and accessible for years into the future, though most of it was infrequently accessed. To this question, one of our current customers explained, “That’s exactly what we’re doing with our Spectra Logic tape library: using tape as storage for large amounts of file system data.” Through the show, we confirmed that using reliable, affordable tape as the data store behind a file system is both needed to solve data access problems within budgets available; and, most customers don’t realize it is possible to use tape to offload their file system data from the primary storage. We realized that we needed to unearth the myth that tape is just for backup and make it known how perfectly it suits file system archive. An idea was born. Read More

No shake of the dice here – Spectra Lands Its Second Product of the Year for TFinity

Spectra Logic is excited to announce our second product of the year award for the Spectra TFinity tape library. Brian Grainger of Spectra attended the second annual Data Intensive Computing Environment (DICE) Data Intensive Impact Awards event yesterday and accepted the award.

According to the press release issued at this week’s DICE Alliance 2010 event, the DICE Technical Advisory Panel  (TAP) selected showcase products and technologies that have enabled progress in HPC data management in locality, movement, manipulation and integrity, as well as power and cooling efficiencies.   This is what DICE TAP members had to say:   “Our team selected the TFinity for its versatility in data intensive environments,” said Al Stutz, Avetec CIO and DICE team leader. “The product helps with the demanding archiving and backup environments experienced in the enterprise IT, federal, high performance computing (HPC) and media and entertainment space.”   “Spectra Logic’s new TFinity tape library addresses the demanding storage and productivity requirements of HPC and enterprise markets,” said Steve Conway, IDC’s research vice president of technical computing. “It supplies multiple redundant components and unique features, while requiring only a single management interface, thus raising the bar on management simplicity within data-intensive environments.”

Cheers to our development team. We appreciate the recognition for our continued innovation and dedication to the high performance computing market.