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XenData links up tape archives with S3 interface

XenData launched an object storage interface for its LTO archives, along with a new synchronization service that consolidates multiple archives into a single, global repository.

XenData launched an object storage S3 interface for its LTO archives and a synchronization service for linking multiple archives together to form a massive, globally distributed data repository.

The S3 interface is available on all XenData LTO archive products, which make tape storage appear as the X: drive so end users can access and share files like on any disk volume. The new S3 software upgrade, which is sold as a $2,000 per-year subscription, makes the tape libraries more like private clouds by allowing remote access via HTTPS. They can still be accessed through traditional on-premises means such as NFS and SMB.

XenData's S3 interface creates an environment similar to a cold storage tier in a public cloud -- an AWS Glacier or an Azure Archive Tier, but in the customer's data center. The use case is also similar, as both environments are designed to hold hundreds of terabytes or more of infrequently accessed but still valuable data.

The advantage of XenData S3 in the data center versus housing data in the cloud is time to first byte. When a user calls for a file with XenData, it takes about two minutes for that data transfer to begin, as that is how long it takes for the robot in the tape library to find the right tape and plug it in, according to the vendor. On a public cloud, it could take as long as 12 hours for the first byte to be sent, depending on service-level agreements with the cloud provider.

Screenshot of XenData S3 interface
On-premises XenData LTO archives are configured like S3 buckets.

Most XenData customers are in media and entertainment, so waiting for a data transfer to start is unacceptable, said XenData CEO Phil Storey. Additionally, these customers are already invested in a large on-premises footprint capacity-wise, so it wouldn't make sense economically to use a public cloud. The only advantage of the cloud over on-premises archives is global accessibility, and XenData's S3 interface fixes that, Storey said.

"We have customers with their own multi-petabyte data centers. Why would they ever pay for public cloud?" Storey said.

XenData also launched Global Sync, a service that creates a single global file system by linking multiple S3-enabled LTO archives together. Any file archived at any location becomes available as a stub within the global file system, and all changes are reflected across all locations.

Although Global Sync uses Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB as its back end, customers' files never touch the cloud during restores or transfers. Instead, they are sent via peer-to-peer HTTPS between their LTO archives, allowing for secure data movement.

XenData's S3 interface is similar to Spectra Logic BlackPearl and Fujifilm Object Archive, as they all provide the software framework to enable object storage on tape, but the ability to synchronize multiple archives is new and powerful, said Christophe Bertrand, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), a division of TechTarget. It allows customers with multiple LTO archives to collapse those silos into one massive data repository, making it easier for users to find specific files and collaborate on them.

The alternative is to do it in cloud, but with this setup, your total cost of ownership is going to be better than cloud.
Christophe BertrandSenior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group

Global Sync's capability can be achieved in the cloud, via Dropbox or a similar cloud file repository. However, almost all XenData customers have at least a few hundred terabytes of data, Storey claimed. At that scale, using the cloud is very costly, Bertrand said.

"The alternative is to do it in cloud, but with this setup, your total cost of ownership is going to be better than cloud," Bertrand said.

With XenData's Global Sync, data never leaves customers' data centers, so that provides a data sovereignty and compliance incentive over cloud as well, Bertrand added.

Spectra Logic Active Archive and other vendor products can make tape data online-capable, and customers could replicate Global Sync's capability by linking those together, said Vinny Choinski, senior validation analyst at ESG. However, customers would be building this synchronization themselves. Given the size of the environments involved, it's better to have a vendor solve the problem than to "DIY it," Choinski said.

"At this scale, you don't want to cobble this together yourself," Choinski said.

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