Spectra Logic – BlackPearl Overview

I recently had the opportunity to take a briefing with Jeff Braunstein and Susan Merriman from Spectra Logic (one of those rare occasions where getting your badge scanned at a conference proves valuable), and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

BlackPearl Family

Spectra Logic sell a variety of products, but this briefing was focused primarily on the BlackPearl series. Braunstein described it as a “gateway” device, with both NAS and object front end interfaces, and backend capability that can move data to multiple types of archives.

[image courtesy of Spectra Logic]

It’s a hardware box, but at its core the value is in the software product. The idea is that the BlackPearl acts as a disk cache, and you configure policies to send the data to one or more storage targets. The cool thing is that it supports multiple retention policies, and these can be permanent too. By that I mean you could spool one copy to tape for long term storage, and have another copy of your data sit on disk for 90 days (or however long you wanted).

 

Local vs Remote Storage

Local

There are a few different options for local storage, including BlackPearl Object Storage Disk, functioning as “near line archive”. This is configured with 107 enterprise quality SATA drives, (and they’re looking at introducing 16TB drives next month), providing roughly 1.8PB RAW capacity. They function as power-down archive drives (using the drive spin down settings), and delivers a level of resilience and reliability by using ZFS as the file system,. There are also customer-configurable parity settings. Alternatively, you can pump data to Spectra Tape Libraries, for those of you who still want to use tape as a storage format.

 

Remote Storage Targets

In terms of remote storage targets, BlackPearl can leverage either public cloud, or other BlackPearl devices as replication targets. Replication to BlackPearl can be one way or bi-directional. Public Cloud support is available via Amazon S3 (and S3-like products such as Cloudian and Wasabi), and MS Azure. There is a concept of data immutability in the product, and you can turn on versioning to prevent your data management applications (or users) from accidentally clobbering your data.

Braunstein also pointed out that tape generations evolve, and BlackPearl has auto-migration capabilities. You can potentially have data migrate transparently from tape to tape (think LTO-6 to LTO-7), tape to disk, and tape to cloud.

 

[image courtesy of Spectra Logic]

In terms of how you leverage BlackPearl, some of that is dependent on the workflows you have in place to move your data. This could be manual, semi-automated, or automated (or potentially purpose built into existing applications). There’s a Spectra S3 RESTful API, and there’s heaps of information on developer.spectralogic.com on how to integrate BlackPearl into your existing applications and media workflows.

 

Thoughts

If you’re listening to the next-generation data protection vendors and big box storage folks, you’d wonder why companies such as Spectra Logic still focus on tape. It’s not because they have a rich heritage and deep experience in the tape market (although they do). There are plenty of use cases where tape still makes sense in terms of its ability to economically store large amounts of data in a relatively secure (off-line if required) fashion. Walk into any reasonably sized film production house and you’ll still see tape in play. From a density perspective (and durability), there’s a lot to like about tape. But BlackPearl is also pretty adept at getting data from workflows that were traditionally file-based and putting them on public cloud environments (the kind of environments that heavily leverage object storage interfaces). Sure, you can pump the data up to AWS yourself if you’re so inclined, but the real benefit of the BlackPearl approach, in my opinion, is that it’s policy-driven and fully automated. There’s less chance that you’ll fat finger the transfer of critical data to another location. This gives you the ability to focus on your core business, and not have to worry about data management.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what BlackPearl can do, and I recommend checking out their product site for more information.