LTFS 3: Linear Tape File System and the Future of Tape Data Storage

By Nicholas Inglis posted 09-19-2014 10:03


The Linear Tape File System (LTFS) is an open specification that is taking tape management into the future. With LTFS, which boasts the convenience of USB and external storage options and generally larger capacities, tape has regained its rightful place among other data storage technologies. LTFS enables organizations to push the boundaries of magnetic tape storage with both traditional and nontraditional uses. As an open specification, LTFS can be utilized by any company's LTFS software since it is vendor-neutral, and data stored on tape using LTFS is self-contained and self-referential: Much like a USB or external drive, the tape includes an index with drag-and-drop functionality but with larger storage potential.

Long Live Data Backup

Tape has remained the primary option for data backup for over 50 years. With LTFS, it is now easier than ever to back up data and leverage that data on a tape backup. Since LTFS writes an index at the beginning of the tape, it is now possible to scan the tape much faster than ever before. You can retrieve files more quickly and easily from tape with LTFS than prior tape systems, which tended to take a relatively long time to retrieve files. Leveraging offsite tape vaulting can increase the longevity of the data backed up to tape, and data backup remains one of the largest use cases of LTFS technology.

Big Data, Big Tapes

One use case that has not been frequently discussed is the alignment of big data with the Linear Tape File System. Since LTFS tapes can store large volumes — LTO-6 tapes can store up to 8 TB of data — LTFS is growing in popularity for the use cases of accumulating large pools of company data for analysis.

Every time customers visit websites, purchase goods or browse stores, the host collects at least a little bit of data. One of the use cases around big data and LTFS tapes is to collect all of that "exhaust data" from customers so that it can be analyzed later to track trends. The value this data offers is often considered minimal, however, when compared to the storage costs, so the data is often deleted. This is where LTFS, with enormous storage potential and lower costs than other storage media, can step up to the plate: Exhaust data can be synced to LTFS and then analyzed later once large pools of exhaust data have accumulated.

Video and Audio

Still another use case for LTFS is video production: Since digital video files are incredibly large, it makes sense that they be stored on media that is likewise large. With a capacity of 8 TB, LTO-6 tapes are growing incredibly popular with motion picture studios, local television stations and everything in between. With LTFS' superior ability to retrieve files over previous tape storage methods, LTFS is becoming the storage media of choice for professional video content.

Likewise, professional audio files are also incredibly large. Audio of all sorts, from live recordings to radio broadcasts, is being stored via LTFS technology.

General Storage — Just Larger

The most common use case, however, is whatever an organization needs for large-capacity storage. LTFS can be applied to so many use cases in specific organizations that it would be impossible to list them all.

What are the criteria for using LTFS?

  • Will the organization need large capacity? If yes, then LTFS is a potential option.
  • Will the organization need data storage? If yes, then it is time to learn more about LTFS.

With massive storage capabilities and faster, easier data retrieval, it is difficult to imagine that organizations could not find a use for LTFS technology. This revolution in tape backup and management is ensuring that magnetic tape will be a viable and cost-effective long-term storage option well into the future.

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