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LTO6 stored, unused for 1-2 years- do tapes require periodic winding etc,. pending transfer to next LTO generations?

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Ian Henderson
LTO6 stored, unused for 1-2 years- do tapes require periodic winding etc,. pending transfer to next LTO generations?
on May 16, 2018 at 3:07:02 pm

Hi,

I’ve been looking online etc. for a definitive answer to a question but without success, and I hope you may be able to advise me please, re: optimal maintenance of archived LTO (6) tape cartridges.

There is a collection of AV files held on LTO 6, which are likely to held unused, in storage for potentially a year or 2 before transfer to LTO (7), and to then step onto LTO (8 or 9). As they remain unused, would these require periodic winding by deck to keep them in optimal condition over this time?
Also I understand re-tensioning can be performed but I believe this should only done if the tape is being misread, rather than a general periodic maintenance step, is that correct?

I’m aware of the correct environment and storage of cartridges but could you please advise if there are any other tape maintenance procedures that should be routinely performed?

Many thanks,

Ian


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Tim Jones
Re: LTO6 stored, unused for 1-2 years- do tapes require periodic winding etc,. pending transfer to next LTO generations?
on May 17, 2018 at 1:10:25 am

Hi Ian,

All of that is pretty much old-tech mythology. It's actually embarrassing as one of the original tape design engineers (Archive, Corp from 1987-1993) that those myths are still around 30 years after the fact.

Modern tapes do not require retensioning and actually ignore the command. That is an old command that was used for old Teac Data Cassettes and QIC cartridge tapes from the 1980s. You haven't needed to use the RETEN command for any device newer than DLT-8 and not at all for any of the helical scan technologies (Exabyte 8MM, VXA, AIT, DAT).

It is quite safe to leave an LTO tape on the shelf for 50+ years and still retrieve data successfuly (provided you used the right software to create the tape in the first place). Also, most LTO technologies have a 10-12 year life expectancy, so you don't need to migrate the data that often. Also, by simply hanging onto an existing drive and maintaining it, you could stretch that even longer. As for storage, we keep our onsite tapes in plastic boxes in the lab on a metal rack. And, no special climate control (the tape drives themselves are in a more controlled environment, though). And here's a shot of some LTO-2, LTO-4, and DAT tapes that are over 10 years old and restore perfectly just sitting on the shelf in the closet in our video room:



The frustration comes with LTO-8 not reading LTO-6 tapes. This means that to keep LTO-6 media available for longer, you would need to hang onto an LTO-6 drive or grab a refreshed LTO-7 drive when the manufacturers EOL the LTO-6 drives. Otherwise, a 6 will read back to 4 and a 7 will read back to 5, so the life of even an LTO-5 tape is still looking towards 15 more years of use.

Aside from the "green zone" info that I posted earlier, tape media - especially LTO tape media - is very robust.

Now, will IBM, Quantum, etc. make this same statement? Most likely not since they need to continue selling new technologies to keep their huge corporations running. If you're settled on LTO-7 and plan to stick with it for 10 years, they've lost you as a customer for 8 years.

Tim
--
Tim Jones
CTO - TOLIS Group, Inc.
http://www.tolisgroup.com
BRU ... because it's the RESTORE that matters!


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Ian Henderson
Re: LTO6 stored, unused for 1-2 years- do tapes require periodic winding etc,. pending transfer to next LTO generations?
on May 17, 2018 at 1:16:45 pm

Hi Tim,

This is great, thank-you very much for your detailed response. This gives me exactly what I needed to know. It's reassuring to hear just how sturdy and durable these tapes are. I've also taken note of the green zone information and will circulate to colleagues.

Best Regards,

Ian


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Jerzy Zbyslaw
Re: LTO6 stored, unused for 1-2 years- do tapes require periodic winding etc,. pending transfer to next LTO generations?
on May 19, 2018 at 5:12:50 pm

[Tim Jones] "And here's a shot of some LTO-2, LTO-4, and DAT tapes that are over 10 years old and restore perfectly just sitting on the shelf in the closet in our video room"

Shouldn't these be stored in the vertical position as advised by the manufacturers e.g.

Page 3 of this Quantum document "Keep cartridges in protective case and store vertically when not in use."

https://storageconsortium.de/content/sites/default/files/downloads/TAPE_bes...

and Page 28 of this Fujifilm document "Store cartridges vertically (reel axis horizontal)"

https://tapepower.fujifilmrmd.com/Shared/PDF/knowledgebase/LTO_Tech%20%26%2...

otherwise I presume with either rough handling or dropping the cartridge in a flat position that its possible to have something like that described on pages 32 and 33 where you can have popped out strands or edge damage and I wonder how badly this affects restoration of the data given its "linear tape" that needs perfect alignment at all times to restore data?


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Tim Jones
Re: LTO6 stored, unused for 1-2 years- do tapes require periodic winding etc,. pending transfer to next LTO generations?
on May 19, 2018 at 6:15:49 pm

I wasn't sharing that photo as a "best practices" shot, but rather to affirm that tapes aren't as fragile as the CYA (ask if you don't know) documents which the manufacturers publish indicate. I was simply sharing that tapes are very robust and reliable over time. Of the literally 10,000's of tapes that we've worked with in our labs since 1985, we've never had a tape fail to restore because of the manner in which we have stored them. Yes, dropping a cartridge onto a cement floor is not a good idea, but neither is dropping your infant onto that same concrete floor 😜. Some simple common sense (which I know is in limited supply nowadays) is really all that it takes.

Alignment within the cartridge, while important to lessen the possibility of edge damage, is not as important with LTO since the path management within the drive is where the tape travel is managed, not within the cartridge like in the old QIC days. If you've ever disassembled an LTO cartridge (and we have many times), you would find that the tape wrap is so tight that you can barely move the tape by hitting it with a hammer.

Common sense and a normal business environment are all that are really required to keep your data around for a very long time when using even the oldest of tape technologies.

Tim
--
Tim Jones
CTO - TOLIS Group, Inc.
http://www.tolisgroup.com
BRU ... because it's the RESTORE that matters!


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Jerzy Zbyslaw
Re: LTO6 stored, unused for 1-2 years- do tapes require periodic winding etc,. pending transfer to next LTO generations?
on May 19, 2018 at 4:48:25 pm

[Ian Henderson] " in storage for potentially a year or 2 before transfer to LTO (7)"

Since its only a year or two then it probably won't matter but if its going to be much longer then I suggest you exclusively use BaFe tapes (Barrium Ferrite) rather than the standard MP (Metal particle) ones as LTO6 can use either and the cost difference is minor, LTO7 and up is BaFe only. Kindly read the white paper that explains its advantages over the previous MP tapes.

http://www.oracle.com/us/products/servers-storage/storage/tape-storage/esg-...


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Tim Jones
Re: LTO6 stored, unused for 1-2 years- do tapes require periodic winding etc,. pending transfer to next LTO generations?
on May 19, 2018 at 6:24:15 pm

Touching on a bit of FUD there - both media types will hang onto their magnetic domains for many, many years. The real difference (as IBM and HP learned with LTO-5 head assembly destruction) is a matter of "smoothness" of the surface that really differentiates the two formulas.

Unless you're buying from a questionable reseller, I don't even think that the major manufacturers offer anything BUT BaFe tapes any more. Fujifilm, Overland Storage, HPE, IBM, Quantum, and everyone else that we deal with stopped with the older formulas long ago.

Again, using (not so?) common sense will be the answer here.

Tim
--
Tim Jones
CTO - TOLIS Group, Inc.
http://www.tolisgroup.com
BRU ... because it's the RESTORE that matters!


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