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3. LTFS

The Linear Tape File System (LTFS) is expected to help usher in a tape renaissance. It’s the first technology that lets users search for information on tape via a file-tree directory, making the process similar to searching disk storage. Users can drag and drop files to and from a mounted LTFS formatted tape, opening up new possibilities for incorporating tape into workflows and making long-term archival easier.

LTO-5, the first tape format to support LTFS, has media partitioning so a drive can write two variable-length partitions on each tape. One partition has a self-contained hierarchical file system index and the second holds the content. LTFS presents a file-structure-type interface for managing the files on tape. All a user has to do is load the tape into a drive and the data can be viewed by a browser or any application that has a tape attached to it.

HP and IBM are the main developers of LTFS software, and the LTFS open standard is supported by the LTO Consortium. HP supports LTFS in HP StoreOpen Automation, while IBM released support for LTFS for libraries last May with its IBM System Storage LTFS Library Edition. Other companies have delivered support for LTFS, such as Crossroads with its StrongBox device and Cache-A offers LTFS capability with its flagship Pro-Cache5, Power-Cache and Prime-Cache5. In addition, Atempo is now fully compatible with the LTFS platform when using Atempo Digital Archive (ADA), a file archiving product.

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LTFS is still in the early adoption phase, with media and entertainment as its sweet spot. Robert Smith, founder of 2PopDigital.com, which provides editorial system support for post-production in the media and entertainment industry, said LTFS will hit the mainstream when more archiving management software supports the open standard.

HOW OUR PREDICTIONS FOR 2011 FARED

Enlarge HOW OUR PREDICTIONS FOR 2011 FARED diagram.

“It will be the catalyst to using LTFS,” he said. “Then you can see what’s on the tape instead of depending on a database that’s telling you by the tape number or barcode. If you have LTFS, you can search for a file the same way you do in a file system. LTFS has lots of benefits in that regard.”

Randy Kerns, storage strategist at Boulder, Colo.-based Evaluator Group, said the media and entertainment industry has the most immediate need for LTFS because of the requirement to transport data more efficiently. He said archiving management software can be layered on top of LTFS so users can input retention periods and data access controls -- the technology will go mainstream once more archive management software supports it. “It’s really a managing archive rather than a collection of backups,” he said. “Companies have another alternative with tape that’s more functional than just doing backups.”

This was first published in December 2011

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