Flape! Flash and Tape Archival Pairing

Flash and Tape- the Perfect Pair?

Flash and Tape- the Perfect Pair?

Flape! What’s that?  You may recall the creative minds at Wikibon coined this name which describes a combination of flash and tape for storing archival data. As described in an article by Wikibon’s David Floyer, “this combination of technologies when used for long-term archiving can save IT departments as much as 300% of their overall IT budget over the course of 10 years. The concept behind the Flape architecture is to place the most active data as well as the metadata (the info about the data) on flash, and the rest of the (cool and cold) data on tape. The combination of flash and tape provides IT with the right balance of performance and cost for a number of use cases.” This combination can be the perfect pairing of storage technologies.

Six Use Cases for Flape

Floyer sees six common use cases for Flape: archiving, backup, long-term retention, scale-out NAS, as a tier in multi-tier storage schemes, and for the cloud. When considering the cloud, this combination of flash and tape would be a winner for cloud clients as it can provide performance and low cost, secure, long term retention on LTO tape. As a testament to the relevance for cloud clients, Google has announced an expansion to its cloud service, Offline Media Import / Export, that allows you to load data into Google Cloud Storage by sending your physical media, such as hard disk drives, USB flash drives, and tape (yay!) to a third party service provider who uploads data on your behalf.  I suggest you use tape, while keeping the original tape at your location and mailing a tape copy to your service provider. This will provide a low cost, high capacity method for transferring the data, and the tape can be secured with LTO tape encryption!

Fast and Low Cost 

Ok, back to Flape. As mentioned by Floyer, one of the keys to this storage combination is that disk capacity prices are not decreasing as fast as those of flash or tape.  LTO-6 tape is less than a penny per gigabyte. In addition, tape can stream data really fast, faster than disk, and is growing even faster. LTO-6 tape drives can sustain up to 400 megabytes per second data transfer rates compressed and LTO-7, which is on the LTO program technology roadmap, is slated to far surpass that!

Data about the Data

David Vellante of Wikibon describes how tape is poised for a George Foreman-like comeback in his blog. He states, the combination of tape and flash will yield much better performance and substantially lower cost than spinning disk. Today, metadata, data about

LTO tape is below 1 cent / GB

LTO tape is below 1 cent / GB

the data (i.e. what files live where), is locked inside the contents of an individual tape cartridge. If you take all the metadata that’s locked on tapes and surface that onto a flash layer as a front-end to tape, you’ll get much lower costs and much better performance than with a spinning disk system… even a disk system with flash.

LTFS is a Player with Flape

When using the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) with LTO tape cartridges, the metadata is stored on each cartridge making the tape self-describing. All of the cartridges metadata can be pooled and stored on flash to allow for very fast searching of the tape pool contents, as well as efficient automatic recall of the needed cartridge(s) using an automated tape library. Massive data storage combined with the analytic power of Flash can enable the lowest TCO with seamless Flash performance.

To summarize, Flape is the dynamic combination of flash and tape for high performance, low cost, and secure archival storage. That’s awesome, or better yet, it’s Flarout!