Fujifilm Object Archive – Not Your Father’s Tape Library

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 22.  Some expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Fujifilm recently presented at Storage Field Day 22. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Fujifilm Overview

You’ve heard of Fujifilm before, right? They do a whole bunch of interesting stuff – batteries, cameras, copiers. Nami Matsumoto, Director of DMS Marketing and Operations, took us through some of Fujifilm’s portfolio. Fujifilm’s slogan is “Value From Innovation”, and it certainly seems to be looking to extract maximum value from its $1.4B annual spend on research and development. The Recording Media Products Division is focussed on helping “companies future proof their data”.

[image courtesy of Fujifilm]

 

The Problem

The challenge, as always (it seems), is that data growth continues apace while budgets remain flat. As a result, both security and scalability are frequently sacrificed when solutions are deployed in enterprises.

  • Rapid data creation: “More than 59 Zettabytes (ZB) of data will be created, captured, copied, and consumed in the world this year” (IDC 2020)
  • Shift from File to Object Storage
  • Archive Market – 60 – 80%
  • Flat IT budgets
  • Cybersecurity concerns
  • Scalability

 

Enter The Archive

FUJIFILM Object Archive

Chris Kehoe, Director of DMS Sales and Engineering, spent time explaining what exactly FUJIFILM Object Archive was. “Object Archive is an S3 based archival tier designed to reduce cost, increase scale and provide the highest level of security for long-term data retention”. In short, it:

  • Works like Amazon S3 Glacier in your DC
  • Simply integrates with other object storage
  • Scales on tape technology
  • Secure with air gap and full chain of custody
  • Predictable costs and TCO with no API or egress fees

Workloads?

It’s optimised to handle the long-term retention of data, which is useful if you’re doing any of these things:

  • Digital preservation
  • Scientific research
  • Multi-tenant managed services
  • Storage optimisation
  • Active archiving

What Does It Look Like?

There are a few components that go into the solution, including a:

  • Storage Server
  • Smart cache
  • Tape Server

[image courtesy of Fujifilm]

Tape?

That’s right, tape. The tape library supports LTO7, LTO8, TS1160. The data is written using “OTFormat” specification (you can read about that here). The idea is that it packs a bunch of objects together so they get written efficiently.  

[image courtesy of Fujifilm]

Object Storage Too

It uses an “S3-compatible” API – the S3 server is built on Zenko inside (Scality). From an object storage perspective, it works with Cloudian HyperStore, Caringo Swarm, NetApp StorageGRID, Scality Ring. It also has Starfish and Tiger Bridge support.

Other Notes

The product starts at 1PB of licensing. You can read the Solution Brief here. There’s an informative White Paper here. And there’s one of those nice Infographic things here.

Deployment Example

So what does this look like from a deployment perspective? One example was a typical primary storage deployment, with data archived to an on-premises object storage platform (in this case NetApp StorageGRID). When your archive got really “cold”, it would be moved to the Object Archive.

[image courtesy of Fujifilm]

[image courtesy of Fujifilm]

 

Thoughts

Years ago, when a certain deduplication storage appliance company was acquired by a big storage slinger, stickers with “Tape is dead, get over it” were given out to customers. I think I still have one or two in my office somewhere. And I think the sentiment is spot on, at least in terms of the standard tape library deployments I used to see in small to mid to large enterprise. The problem that tape was solving for those organisations at the time has largely been dealt with by various disk-based storage solutions. There are nonetheless plenty of use cases where tape is still considered useful. I’m not going to go into every single reason, but the cost per GB of tape, at a particular scale, is hard to beat. And when you want to safely store files for a long period of time, even offline? Tape, again, is hard to beat. This podcast from Curtis got me thinking about the demise of tape, and I think this presentation from Fujifilm reinforced the thinking that it was far from on life support – at least in very specific circumstances.

Data keeps growing, and we need to keep it somewhere, apparently. We also need to think about keeping it in a way that means we’re not continuing to negatively impact the environment. It doesn’t necessarily make sense to keep really old data permanently online, despite the fact that it has some appeal in terms of instant access to everything ever. Tape is pretty good when it comes to relatively low energy consumption, particularly given the fact that we can’t yet afford to put all this data on All-Flash storage. And you can keep it available in systems that can be relied upon to get the data back, just not straight away. As I said previously, this doesn’t necessarily make sense for the home punter, or even for the small to midsize enterprise (although I’m tempted now to resurrect some of my older tape drives and see what I can store on them). It really works better at large scale (dare I say hyperscale?). Given that we seem determined to store a whole bunch of data with the hyperscalers, and for a ridiculously long time, it makes sense that solutions like this will continue to exist, and evolve. Sure, Fujifilm has sold something like 170 million tapes worldwide. But this isn’t simply a tape library solution. This is a wee bit smarter than that. I’m keen to see how this goes over the next few years.

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