buying an LTO Ultrium drive suggestions?

Finally nearing the time to drop some coin on hardware. One of the first things on the list is an LTO6 tape drive for an offline media archive and also for backup use.


I am wondering if there is any reason to choose one maker (ie IBM vs Quantum vs HP) or model over another. About the only things i'm pretty set in is buying new (not refurbished), preferring external case if about the same price (more portable to swap between other machines/plan to use it on more than one), and almost assuredly will be SAS based. Other than that I was just looking at prices... are they all the same? What questions should I ask to choose one over another? Who has objective information since I don't trust most salespeople?


I see very little discussion of tape drives on these boards - if someone can suggest another forum with more tape drive users to post in to ask i'm all ears, i'm just not sure where else to ask.

EDIT/PS: I guess one possible question is should they all work on Mac equally well? That's not critical now (main use will be Windows and Linux) but it's a plus if they can. Any idea about FreeBSD or is that same as Linux compatibility?
 

BlueFox

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How much are you looking to back up? Tapes don't become economical until you have a very large amount of data, not to mention are a bit of a pain. I wouldn't bother with less than 250TB personally and I think that is barely the breaking even point (where it's still not worth it due to the hassle).
 

Evan

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Consider FC attached LTO5/6 used from enterprise maybe you can get cheap cheap (I haven’t looked just thinking about what in the enterprise world I live in has been going to the scrap heap)

The HPL MSL2024 = IBM TS3100 = Dell TL2000 = overland ??? = quantum ???

Just a thought on the low end that maybe you can pickup as a dell refurb or something.

USE GOOD QUALITY TAPES !!! And cleaning tapes !!!
 

mstone

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you don't hear much about tapes because they are very niche at this point. they can be useful if you are into large scale data archiving, or...I have no idea what else. the economics just don't make any sense for most applications.
 

Terry Kennedy

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I am wondering if there is any reason to choose one maker (ie IBM vs Quantum vs HP) or model over another. About the only things i'm pretty set in is buying new (not refurbished), preferring external case if about the same price (more portable to swap between other machines/plan to use it on more than one), and almost assuredly will be SAS based. Other than that I was just looking at prices... are they all the same? What questions should I ask to choose one over another? Who has objective information since I don't trust most salespeople?
I'm using LTO6 in libraries here, and LTO4 standalone. LTO reads 2 generations back, so LTO6 can read LTO4. All of my drives were built by IBM, but labeled with various OEM names. I had a major falling-out with Quantum some years ago and refuse to use any of their products. HP has annoying firmware access policies.

You can find the IBM firmware on a number of sites, despite IBM wanting a contract to download it from their server. You just have to match the OEM personality of the drive with the firmware or the drive will reject it. Overland Storage and Lenovo both use generic IBM firmware and you can download it from their respective sites.
EDIT/PS: I guess one possible question is should they all work on Mac equally well? That's not critical now (main use will be Windows and Linux) but it's a plus if they can. Any idea about FreeBSD or is that same as Linux compatibility?
I'm using my drives on FreeBSD. I go into a bit of detail here.
 

nkw

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Aug 28, 2017
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Finally nearing the time to drop some coin on hardware. One of the first things on the list is an LTO6 tape drive for an offline media archive and also for backup use.


I am wondering if there is any reason to choose one maker (ie IBM vs Quantum vs HP) or model over another. About the only things i'm pretty set in is buying new (not refurbished), preferring external case if about the same price (more portable to swap between other machines/plan to use it on more than one), and almost assuredly will be SAS based. Other than that I was just looking at prices... are they all the same? What questions should I ask to choose one over another? Who has objective information since I don't trust most salespeople?


I see very little discussion of tape drives on these boards - if someone can suggest another forum with more tape drive users to post in to ask i'm all ears, i'm just not sure where else to ask.

EDIT/PS: I guess one possible question is should they all work on Mac equally well? That's not critical now (main use will be Windows and Linux) but it's a plus if they can. Any idea about FreeBSD or is that same as Linux compatibility?
I recently purchased a Dell PowerVault TL2000 off ebay with a LTO6 drive for some personal/side-project work. As somebody that hadn't touched tape since DDS-2, I thought it was awesome. I think the one I purchased was used by the government and turns out according to the service tag has 4 hour onsite service for the next two years. I was amazed I was able to buy a big rackmount box with a robot inside that moved around physical tapes for the price I was able to. :) I liked it so much part of me wants to pickup one of these: Spectra Logic T680 Data Tape Library | Excellent Conditon | Refurbished (Z3E2) | eBay

My biggest issue was it was a Fibre Channel drive and I have zero FC infrastructure or experience and started off with a bad HBA. Replaced that and it works like a charm. To me the best feature was being able to use a tape library and that the drives/sleds/library are all standard, so you can buy a cheap library off ebay and then stick a new(ish) drive in the sled if you want. The sweet-spot for me price was LTO6, but I've been watching LTO7 drives start to pop up worth the money.

When troubleshooting my HBA issue, I did run across a few people using them on Macs (I don't know if they were using libraries or not) and I have even seen some that are in thunderbolt enclosures. I would probably just run it on a Linux box due to the well tested software options (Bareos, bacula, etc.), but heck if you want to you can still just use tar with the things.
 
How much are you looking to back up? Tapes don't become economical until you have a very large amount of data,
80-300TB expected minimum writing over the next three years, maybe half a petabyte, possibly notably more if certain projects take off. I have 40tb that needs writing twice to a mirror right now (and might prefer three way) and I want to free up USB hard drives so I can shuck them and build a NAS with them.

The break even point for me is where the cost of "another two dozen hard drives" is overtaken by the per TB cost of tape, to say nothing for the lifespan (keep replacing those HD's more often than tape), power savings (no NAS to turn on to scrub for days on end twice a month) and convenience. (also want to mail tapes around - HD's dont like being dropkicked by the postal service) For me that happens with LTO6.


Consider FC attached LTO5/6 used from enterprise maybe you can get cheap cheap

Just a thought on the low end that maybe you can pickup as a dell refurb or something.

USE GOOD QUALITY TAPES !!! And cleaning tapes !!!
How cheap might you think? I'm content buying new - I see drives for $1500. But which one? And are they any less good than a $2500 one? In theory if the drive tests the written data as good it's probably fine on tape but i'm assuming LTO6 is still in such use it's not getting dumped much. I have no interest in using any older - the media costs as much and stores less, kills the economics according to the spreadsheet.

I'm really looking for SAS, unless I find I can get an FC LTO6 for like $300 or something justifying hassle and expense to learn another new interface and it's quirks just to write and read tape.


you don't hear much about tapes because they are very niche at this point. they can be useful if you are into large scale data archiving, or...I have no idea what else. the economics just don't make any sense for most applications.
They do for me. :) As they do for many other AV profesionals who have to keep it, but don't have to access it very often. I'm 100% on getting one, i'm only trying to decide if one is better than another.


I had a major falling-out with Quantum some years ago and refuse to use any of their products. HP has annoying firmware access policies.

You can find the IBM firmware on a number of sites, despite IBM wanting a contract to download it from their server.

I'm using my drives on FreeBSD. I go into a bit of detail here.
Can you expand on either of your issues with Quantum and HP? There's probably an Intel for the same prices i'd think. Do I need to be downloading new firmware all the time/is it like BIOS updates or something?
 

Evan

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If stand alone SAS I would save the $1k, the half height ones seem to be cheaper when I last looked. Mechanical devices less reliable than a HDD so warranty is good to have
 

mstone

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The break even point for me is where the cost of "another two dozen hard drives" is overtaken by the per TB cost of tape, to say nothing for the lifespan (keep replacing those HD's more often than tape), power savings (no NAS to turn on to scrub for days on end twice a month) and convenience. (also want to mail tapes around - HD's dont like being dropkicked by the postal service)
Be aware that late generation LTO tapes are not DATs--they don't particularly like to be dropped and kicked either. They also have temperature and humidity requirements for storage that you should definitely pay attention to. Places that do a lot of storage to tape also tend to scrub those tapes to look for deterioration.
 

Evan

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Honestly I think you will find most enterprises are using backup products like TSM, doing forever incremental type backups so the tapes are never removed from the library, rather the library is remote from the primary data as in another DC room. As such they never leave their nice aircon room.
Yes be a bit careful of the tapes, as I said use quality tapes as well.
 

mstone

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Honestly I think you will find most enterprises are using backup products like TSM, doing forever incremental type backups so the tapes are never removed from the library, rather the library is remote from the primary data as in another DC room.
Yes, in the space that tapes make sense their sheer volume makes manually managing tapes an impossibility. Load them once per generation into the library, then leave them until it's time for the next generation. Then the process of scrubbing & copying is a continuous background thread. And the cost of the libraries and associated management software is part of what makes this a niche application.
 

Evan

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A lot of tape usage is not so much because it’s cheap or Low power but that it’s a ‘media break’ and data once written to tape is a lot less likely to be affected by say a firmware update like maybe a big backup disk pool is.

With 8/10/12/14tb disks now being largely the standard and dedupe and compression and also due to sheer volumes of data people are keeping many generations less history but keeeping it in a much more warm way, ie fast accessible.

@Twice_Shy 80-300tb is only a small system running ZFS with less than a dozen disks and use compression / dedupe or some other storage method and just keep it spinning and snapshot etc.

Tape works yes but it’s not without it’s com0lications for sure.
 

Terry Kennedy

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How cheap might you think? I'm content buying new - I see drives for $1500. But which one? And are they any less good than a $2500 one? In theory if the drive tests the written data as good it's probably fine on tape but i'm assuming LTO6 is still in such use it's not getting dumped much. I have no interest in using any older - the media costs as much and stores less, kills the economics according to the spreadsheet.
I got a new (5 power on hours) in factory packaging LTO6 library drive for $750 around a year ago. You just need to wait for a good deal to come around.

Some people upgraded their drives from LTO6 to LTO7 when that came out (since each LTO generation is read/write compatible with the previous generation). LTO8 just came out late last year, so there will probably be another round of upgrades happening.
Can you expand on either of your issues with Quantum and HP? There's probably an Intel for the same prices i'd think. Do I need to be downloading new firmware all the time/is it like BIOS updates or something?
Quantum seems to be financially wobbly and they make stupid decisions like moving their "lifetime free firmware updates" behind a paywall (since moved back to freely available), and refusing to honor their lifetime warranty on media because it is "too old". Every time I needed to RMA bad tapes received from one of their distributors, I'd get the same routine and I'd have to tell them "Look at the tape - it has only one load cycle on it. And I'm not responsible for the poor inventory practices of your authorized distributors."

And then there was the Quantum Superloader 3, which I described as “a triumph of engineering over common sense”.

HP is just thoroughly unpleasant for firmware updates. I have a customer with a 24 x 7 on-site support contract from HP for their HP hardware, and even they have trouble getting firmware updates.

Enough companies OEM the IBM drives and libraries that you can find the firmware lots of places even though IBM wants a support contract to dowwnload it from them.
 

mrkrad

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Quantum wanted to charge us $8000 to look at a broken autoloader - that same price I could buy a new one for. Never again!
 

DouglasteR

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Just got one (Dell LTO-5 SAS) thru an unbelivable deal.

Is there any diagnostics that can be run to measure the drive life time ?

Last time i messed with tapes was in the DLT era ! Wish me luck !

Also, my apologies if this isn´t the proper place to post, since i searched for a "backup" sub-forum but to no avail.

Maybe @Patrick could create one dedicated sub-forum ?
 
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Terry Kennedy

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Just got one (Dell LTO-5 SAS) thru an unbelivable deal.

Is there any diagnostics that can be run to measure the drive life time ?
IBM ITDT, assuming it is an IBM drive. Reasonably current versions are available from Dell's site - you can use "TL4000" as the product to see the ITDT downloads - they're the same for libraries as for standalone drives.

 
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DouglasteR

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Err, i may have underestimated the rarity of a specific SAS cable and now i can´t connect the unit. (Currently, all my SAS ports are internal and my internal to external cable/adapter is coming from China from a local vendor :rolleyes: )

So i was thinking, can i just remove the tape drive from the external enclosure and use it internally ?

I mean, for what i could gather, the external enclosure just resends the SAS/power connections to the tape drive, in short, the external enclosure is really just an enclosure. It don´t have any special or denying circuitry to negate this option.

I got the unit yesterday and it power up just fine (boot takes an unnerving 2 minutes till the final green led) but i just need to test it with the IBM ITDT for the peace of mind.

Any help is trully appreciated :cool:

@Terry Kennedy
@nkw
 

Terry Kennedy

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Err, i may have underestimated the rarity of a specific SAS cable and now i can´t connect the unit. (Currently, all my SAS ports are internal and my internal to external cable/adapter is coming from China from a local vendor :rolleyes: )
What sort of cable? The Dell drives are normally SFF-8088, which is also common for controllers with external connectors.
So i was thinking, can i just remove the tape drive from the external enclosure and use it internally ?

I mean, for what i could gather, the external enclosure just resends the SAS/power connections to the tape drive, in short, the external enclosure is really just an enclosure. It don´t have any special or denying circuitry to negate this option.
The enclosure normally has a power supply. Modern(ish) IBM drive mechanisms also usually have an Ethernet port for maintenance, which Dell brings out on a regular RJ45 jack, but with a blue plug covering the opening. It is another cable you'll need to disconnect. But you should be able to run the drive temporarily as an internal unit for testing until you get the correct external cable.
 
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DouglasteR

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Yep i disassembled it completely, it´s just a chassis with power supply and a sas adapter (8083 to internal SSF SAS).

Connected it directly to my pc but to my surprise, it´s defective :(

Oh bummer, at least i updated myself with LTOs.