Fujifilm's Dternity NAS appliance puts tape on a network

Published: March 12th, 2014

There are lots of IT staff  who think tape is dead as a storage medium, particularly because the price of hard drives continues to fall while the size of drives grows.

However, there’s no denying tapes durability — some manufactures say data can last decades — or its price ($50 or so for up to 6.25 TB of compressed capacity.).

The problem has been access — tape backed up with many traditional applications gets put into a container and essentially is stored offline.

A number of companies use the LTFS (linear tape file system) to record data to magnetic tape for direct storage.

The latest to join the movement is longtime tape cartridge maker Fujifilm Corp., which today announced its Dternity NAS storage appliance for LTO 6 cartridges.

The appliance appears as just another piece of network attached storage, explained Dan Greenberg, the company’s director of new products. And because it uses LTFS, files can be shifted to it, just like a hard disk array.

“We are creating a solution where its incredibly simple to use and take advantage of tape’s cost-effectiveness — it’s radically cheaper than other technologies,” he said in an interview. “However you don’t hear a lot about tape because is (usually) behind the scenes, on a proprietary server. And it’s not network attached storage.”

“The Dternity NAS allows you to take a library of tape media and present it as a file system on your LAN. You can create shares and move content, files and project onto what looks like network attached storage.”

“You’re not managing cartridges,” he added, “you’re dragging and dropping files over a a network share.”

And while most tape archive solutions put the cartridges off the network, the appliance stays on it for immediate online access.

Users can store “a ton of big data and put it in a place where you could not have done it before,” Greenberg said.

The appliance comes in three models: the S10, with up to four tape LTO 5/6 or IBM TS 1140 LTFS drives managing up to 500TB; the S20 with up to eight drives and 12 TB of storage; and the S30 with up to 16 drives and 35 petabytes of storage.

Software includes data protection capabilities such as tamper checking, LTFS check and archive verification.

Appliances start at less than US$24,000. Detailed pricing of packages will be announced next month at the annual National Association of Broadcasters conference.

There’s also a Dternity Media Cloud storage service, which can add an extra layer of file backup. The NAS appliance software can be configured to automatically backup files to this cloud. However, the cloud is based in the U.S. Pricing was not announced.

Analyst Henry Baltazar of Forrester Research noted in an interview that what makes Fujifilm’s solution different is it’s storage appliance appears as network attached storage.

“This make sense for companies that are generating large amounts of unstructured data — documents, videos, pictures — that is infrequently accessed. You can store it on a traditional storage system, but if it isn’t accessed very much it makes sense to put it on a less expensive medium” like tape.

Enterprise storage systems cost a lot because they include caching and data protection capabilities like snapshot and replication, he added. But data that isn’t changes doesn’t need to be replicated.

On the other hand if the data is important it may have to be held for regulatory or business reasons.

Tape is still good for long term storage, and unlike spinning disks, don’t consume power when they aren’t used, he said.

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