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Spectra Logic ArcticBlue released for cold storage

Spectra Logic unveils ArcticBlue for cheap disk archiving. The system uses shingle drives and works with the company's BlackPearl storage gateway for on-premises storage.

By combining its BlackPearl technology with shingled magnetic recording (SMR) disk, Spectra Logic has come out with an object storage-based nearline storage system called ArcticBlue.

ArcticBlue is designed as an on-premises deep disk archiving tier with a list price of 10 cents per raw GB. The 4U system handles 96 8 TB disk drives to scale up to 768 TBs of storage. It leverages power-down technology to extend the life of the disk, and erasure coding for improved reliability.

"This is designed for cold storage that needs to be readily accessible," said Matthew Starr, Spectra Logic's chief technology officer. "It is data that we want to store cheaply. It sits below second-tier drives and a tier above tape."

SMR disk drives allow the tracks on a platter to be layered on top of each other, similar to roof shingles on a house, to increase platter density or tracks per inch. 

Spectra Logic began using SMR drives in its Verde DPE backup/archiving systems earlier this year.

One ArcticBlue chassis uses four drives as hot spares, while 92 SMR drives are organized in four active bands, with 23 drives in each band for 768 TB of raw capacity and 640 TB of usable storage. Each band uses a three-to-one parity configuration with erasure coding. The disk drives can be powered down when not in use to extend the life of the disk drives.

ArcticBlue and tape make for a powerful combination. They are making disk more attractive for deep archiving, and then you can combine tape and go to an even cheaper level.
Jeff Kato, senior storage analyst, Taneja Group Inc.

ArcticBlue works together with the company's BlackPearl S3 Gateway, which is where the intelligent software resides for policy management and erasure coding. An ArcticBlue system and tape library can sit behind BlackPearl for a tiering approach to on-premises data archiving.

"You have to use a BlackPearl with each ArcticBlue," said Jeff Kato, senior storage analyst at Taneja Group Inc. "ArcticBlue itself is just storage capacity. It's just a JBOD. They could have combined the two, but I think they didn't because BlackPearl does more than talk to ArcticBlue; it talks to tape."

Spectra Logic ArcticBlue pricing, power features will fuel interest

Kato said the price of ArcticBlue should make it an attractive archiving option.

"They will get a lot of interest in this," Kato said. "They are promising storage that is cheaper than Amazon Web Services. The combination of ArcticBlue and tape make for a powerful combination. They are making disk more attractive for deep archiving, and then you can combine tape and go to an even cheaper level."

Spectra Logic's Starr said the power-down technology can extend the life of disk drives for up to seven years. He described the power-down technique as an improved version of MAID (massive array of idle disks), a technology that Copan Systems began shipping in 2004 but never won wide acceptance.

Starr also said BlackPearl supports a RESTful S3 interface that powers the drives on faster than previous MAID versions. The faster power-on times eliminated file system timeouts.

"It takes about 30 seconds to power on the drives and get data requests," Starr said. "There are no file system time outs because we use a RESTful interface. We treat the drives more like tape. This is designed for cold storage that needs to be readily accessible but you want to store cheaply."

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How do you think ArcticBlue stacks up against tape or the cloud for deep archiving?