LTO & LTFS OVERVIEW
The storage and workflow requirements of post-production are unique: post-production work demands a very high performance infrastructure, and the material being processed must be properly stored and protected.
I. ARCHIVING WITH LTO
Archiving has always been a key use case for tape storage, and with LTFS it has become a lot easier. The core challenge for archiving is finding a means to secure cost-effective storage for massive amounts of content for very long periods of time while also maintaining an index of this content. An LTO cartridge is just a spool of tape with no moving parts, making it ideal for long-term storage. This is a key requirement when post work demands that large amounts of content be restored for further editing. LTO libraries can scale to thousands of tape cartridges with many petabytes of data. The current generation of LTO, LTO-8 offers 30TB per tape of storage compressed or 12TB native/raw. LTO Generation 10 has already been announced and will offer cartridge capacity of 48TB.4 native/raw.
LTO technology with LTFS has a number of features that make the solution particularly attractive for archival use. Since it doesn’t require an external power source when not in use, energy costs are significantly reduced. Tape continues to provide the lowest cost storage available, with LTO-7 cartridges available at approximately two cents per GB.
The combination of LTO technology and LTFS is ideal for post-production because it offers cost-effective data management of many large files. The LTO technology and LTFS-based solutions offer a front end to the content and eliminate proprietary software dependencies so that content can be manipulated on any number of workstations. As a result, it’s an ideal media for sharing content with partners throughout the entire production process. In addition, the combination of LTO technology with LTFS can automate the backup of work-in-process files. Less active files can migrate automatically to LTO throughout the post-production process, or users can identify those folders with content that has changed and automatically back up new content overnight. Scans and archives can be scheduled to run manually at any time, or you can schedule archives to run at an interval such as nightly or hourly.
Part of what makes LTO so accessible and practical is that tape drives and decks can be scaled depending on the size of your archive. Hardware can be configured with one or more drives for simultaneous archiving and restore functions and small desktop units can be purchased that have only a single drive and use one tape at a time. Tape libraries can store thousand of tapes and hardware and software is also available that can search entire petabyte archives for a single indexed media file and load the corresponding cartridge into a drive automatically without any human interaction.
The Linear Tape File System (LTFS) allows users to view and access tape files easier by adopting a simple file based interface. LTFS works in conjunction with LTO tape technology for ease of use and portability for open systems tape storage. With LTFS, one partition holds the content and the other holds the content’s index, so the tape can be self-describing to improve archive management. LTO technology with LTFS protects original content with on-site backup copy, reduces camera media inventory costs, and enables the interchange of content between production sites and post-production. LTO technology and LTFS address this by utilizing LTO tape with LTFS to off load camera media while concurrently performing error checking, verification, and indexing. The open format of LTFS also eliminates the need for proprietary software to access the content. This may reduce the cost of supporting and maintaining proprietary software over extended periods of time.
Much like disk-based systems, LTFS defines how it writes content to tape in an open format. LTFS provides a direct access file system on LTO enabling vendors to offer backup, archive and nearline workflows–in one platform. Some vendor solutions do not use the "disk-like" abilities of LTFS. Instead, they only use LTFS as an alternative to the original .tar format.
LTO is by far the most common type of archival media in post-production. Tape decks and the cost of storage per Terabyte make it easily accessible and approachable. There are a few different LTO/LTFS providers and later posts will dive into more detail on specifics offerings and their software.