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Quantum launches Scalar LTFS appliance for file archiving

Quantum’s Scalar LTFS appliance brings linear tape file system (LTFS) support to its tape libraries, making it easier to access files on tape.

Quantum Corp., today unveiled three network attached storage (NAS) gateway appliances which support Linear Tape File Systems (LTFS) for the company’s Scalar tape libraries.

The appliances include enterprise, Fibre Channel (FC) department and SAS department models which let customers access data from tape without requiring backup applications.

The enterprise appliance supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet, 8 Gbps FC and up to 32 Quantum tape drives. The department models support eight drives, Gigabit Ethernet, and either 8 Gbps FC or 6 Gbps SAS. The appliances stream data at file-level speed.

Quantum’s gateways will be available in June. Pricing still is being finalized but the vendor said the FC department model will cost $15,000.

The gateways work independently of Quantum’s StorNext file archiving and management software, but StorNext can import and export LTFS-based data when used with a Scalar LTFS gateway.

Quantum began supporting LTFS in its LTO-5 tape drives last year, but the new appliances add LTFS support for its large libraries. Mark Pastor, Quantum’s strategic business manager, said the LTFS appliances store data in an open format and operate as either NFS or CIFS NAS shares. Each appliance appears as a mount point and each cartridge has its own directory. Users can see all the files in a directory.

To go beyond 32 tape drives, customers must add another appliance.

Vendors and analysts expect LTFS -- also known as tape NAS -- to play a significant role in the way data is archived to, and retrieved from, tape. In both cases, it can remove the need for backup applications to do some of those functions. LTFS takes advantage of media partitioning that was added with LTO-5.

The partitioning lets the drive write two variable-length partitions on each tape. One partition holds a self-contained hierarchical file system index and a second partition holds the content. The tape contents represented by the file system index are available when a tape is loaded into the drive, and can be viewed by a browser or any application that has the tape attached to it.

Quantum’s gateways are used as read and write cache systems, so data passes through the devices to Quantum tape libraries, such as the Scalar i40/880, the Scalar i500 and the Scalar i6000. LTFS allows users to access files on tape from a tree directory in a file system format. Each appliance contains two 2 TB hard drives which are mirrored to store the metadata for cartridges.

“We are not a data cache on disk, so you don’t have to increase your disk size,” Pastor said. “The data passes through the appliances. We only store the metadata. The space on the disk is used for read-and-write cache of files, so it’s more responsive to files.”

Pastor said the media and entertainment industry has been a primary adopter of LTFS because it allows easier access to data on tapes during post-production scenarios when original film is edited and repackaged.

Vendors are in the early stages of building out an LTFS ecosystem. Crossroads Systems launched a NAS-based StrongBox data vault last December. StrongBox ingests data and stores it on internal disk before archiving it to an external library, but allows tape to act like disk so users can retrieve data from LTO-5 cartridges by searching a file system directory.

Rick Villars, IDC’s vice president of information and cloud, said he expects to see tighter relationships between backup and archiving vendors that support LTFS and application vendors.

“The next logical step is for them to be integrated into the software process. LTFS products will be integrated into the entire content value chain, not just the production workflow,” said Villars. 

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