Organizations around the world are amassing data at unprecedented rates. Analytics are key to extracting value, but the volume and speed of this data growth impacts storage management and costs. The colossal expansion of digital archives is highly diversified, spanning multiple verticals and applications, and presents significant challenges for the IT groups tasked with managing them.

In order to provide improved data access, reliability and optimise storage, while still remaining compliant with data protection regulations, many companies are starting to deploy active archives.

What is an ‘active archive’?

According to Enterprise Strategy Group:

“An active archive is a tiered storage topology/solution that gives IT systems or human end-users access to data through a common, unified file system that automatically retrieves and places that data on the appropriate storage tier. As a whole, active archives utilize several media types: SSDs/flash drives,HDDs, cloud storage, and importantly, magnetic tape.”6

Tape is one solution for an organization to overcome the rising complexity and make retaining massive quantities of data easier. In a study7, ESG found that 78% of the organisations it surveyed are using active archiving or tiered storage management, and of those, 89% use tape.

Active archive are widely used and supported by tape

Reliability is a compelling benefit of a tape-based active archive. LTO tapes have an archival life exceeding 30 years. They can support a million “passes” and 20,000 write cycles per tape, and they have a Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) rating of 250,000 hours at a 100% duty cycle. Additionally, data integrity technology is built-in with block-level check sums.The ability to explore large datasets for new opportunities, customers and solutions is a significant competitive advantage, and active archiving is the means to achieve it. Businesses without active archiving may end up spending more money to store and manage growing data while missing out on extracting the value in their data.

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How do active archives help businesses 

An active archive optimises the placement or storage of data on the most appropriate media type. It allows less time critical data to be stored on less expensive media, like LTO tape. And it eliminates the need to manually migrate data between storage systems.

According to the Active Archive Alliance8 active archiving benefits business by improving direction workflows, business continuity, and consolidating multiple storage systems into a single interface. Instead of operating independently in isolated siloes, active archiving aggregates archival data from different storage locations into an active archive.

White Paper: Leveraging Tape for Active Archiving at Scale, ESG,May 2020

7 2020 Tape Landscape for the LTO Consortium, ESG, September 2020



Backup and Archiving – not the same thing 

Backup creates a copy of data and restores it in case of data loss or corruption. A company may have multiple copies of the same information for backup purposes. Increasingly, flash or disk drives are the primary target for first line backup, but many businesses still use tape for secondary, immutable, and air-gapped backup targets.

Archiving creates a ‘goldmaster’ copy of a file on a less expensive storage platform. Typically, the archive copy is one of a kind, freeing up the obligation to continue to backup that data and permitting more efficient use of primary backup storage.

Active Archiving uses tiered storage and intelligent active archive software to protect data and provide fast and efficient access.

As the amount of data retained in archive expands, an active archiving system combines highly scalable archive storage, like LTO technology, with intelligent software. According to the Active Archive Alliance9, “this software uses rich metadata, indexes, directories, tags, and global namespaces to unlock archives and enable high-performance search and retrieval”.

An open standard, like LTFS, can underpin an active archive system by making searching, reading and accessing data on LTO tape cartridges as flexible and open as accessing it from a drive volume.It’s the combination of all these features and the distinctive application of active archiving that allows businesses to realise the value of their data.

Use cases include:

• High performance computing


Life sciences

Business continuity

IoT (including autonomous vehicles)

Can tape be used for the big data archiving? 

Yes! There is a misconception that the only way to deliver AI and deep learning analytics is through an always on, real-time data warehouse. While this kind of solution may provide real-time capabilities, it also requires a significant investment in hardware resources—an investment that may be cost-prohibitive for many IT organizations.

Fortunately, using LTO technology with data management software supports many archiving-related use cases at a far more affordable price point. One of the largest active archive solutions in the world is the CERN Tape Archive which supports CERN’s huge acquisition and analysis of data from the Large Hadron Collider project.

“Tape fits nicely into a well-architected solution in which the processes being served don’t depend on a very short “time to first byte” (i.e., processes not centered on real-time analysis or parallel and distributed data processing. Those processes do not tolerate much latency, making then inherently dependent on network and system bandwidth.”

Enterprise Strategy Group

The Active Archive
Integrates intelligent software and scalable storage for the optimal archive solution