George Crump, Senior Analyst

There are two key challenges to cloud that LTFS seems tailor made to address. The first is how do you get data to the cloud and the second is how do you move between clouds?

What Is LTFS?

Before that though we need to cover LTFS. We have a detailed article about this that we wrote last year "What is LTFS?". The short version is that LTFS is a self describing tape format that can be universally read without specific software. Think of it as a capability that brings USB thumb drive functionality to tape.

Getting Data To The Cloud

At Storage Switzerland we test cloud solutions all the time. Our single biggest challenge is the initial load. How do we get enough data into that cloud that we can begin testing? For right now we copy and wait....and wait....and wait. The data center will face the exact same challenges.

LTFS will help address this issue. Most data centers are going ot have LTO-5 and with it they will have LTFS. All they will have to do is mount a tape in a tape drive and copy their initial set of data do the drive. From there drop the cartridge into a box and overnight the tapes to the cloud provider. Yes, FedEx can "replicate" TB's faster than a WAN connection can. Once the tape is received the provider mounts them and loads the data onto their storage cloud. With that the initial seed is complete.

In the same way if you decide it is time to switch cloud providers or to maybe even bring that data local LTFS may be the ideal method. Your cloud provider can copy the data to tape and send it to you or the other provider and then it can be reloaded. When you think of the archive use case that many have slated as ideal for the cloud, migrating PB's of data between providers across an Internet connection is going to be near impossible. LTFS is the giant thumb drive that will make this movement possible.

Will Cloud Providers Embrace LTFS?

I don't think any provider will have an issue using LTFS for the initial seed. It makes too much sense. Where there may be resistance is when using LTFS to migrate between cloud providers. Why would a provider want to help you leave them?

Any provider that takes that stance is making a critical mistake. One of the top reasons people list for not using cloud storage is provider lock in. If providers would get together and make provider transportability enabled by LTFS happen then they would eliminate one of the most legitimate concerns about using cloud storage. The ones that do first will show themselves as more open and more confident that they can keep customers based on a service relationship not a hostage relationship.

Tape Summit Briefing Note