Let's Talk Backup Tape Drives: LTO-4

Churchill

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I've been looking at some LTO-4 tape drive units but were a bit unsure how to best connect them. With 800/1.6TB tapes less than $10/tape it'd be a great way to backup certain files.

The externals use a SAS connector (which I'd need a card to do), while the internal drives use ?

Was specifically looking at the Dell LTO drives that run $100 on Ebay. I could drop one of thse monsters in my new dual 2670 desktop without a problem and backup over my gigabit network.

I am using this:
Supermicro | Products | Motherboards | Xeon® Boards | X9DR7-LN4F

Which gives me several SAS2 connections.


If there's a better tape drive or standard (LTO 5 OR 6) to use I'm all for looking into it. This option at least allows me to take my data elsewhere.

The next option is an external USB RAID array which is MEH.
 
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TuxDude

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I don't think an internal tape drive would work connected to a SATA port - it's most likely a SAS device. Compatibility only goes one way - SAS controllers can talk to SAS and/or SATA devices, but SATA controllers can only talk to SATA devices, even though the physical connector looks the same.

As to the OP - yes, LTO5, LTO6, and LTO7 are all out in the market, with LTO8+ on the roadmap - I have no idea what pricing on any of it will look like though, I assume the newer gen drives will be rather expensive for home use. You also get some compatibility between generations of LTO - any drive should be able to read its own version plus the two previous ones, or write to its own version plus one previous one. So an LTO4 drive could read LTO2/3/4 media, or write to LTO3/4 media (limited to LTO3 capacity/performance if using the LTO3 media).
 

Terry Kennedy

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I've been looking at some LTO-4 tape drive units but were a bit unsure how to best connect them. With 800/1.6TB tapes less than $10/tape it'd be a great way to backup certain files.
LTO drives will be either [parallel] SCSI (older models / lower capacities), SAS or FC. You will almost definitely want a SAS one.

There are very few manufacturers who actually make LTO drives. The published list of manufacturers is IBM, HP, Quantum and Tandberg. Of those, I believe only IBM makes all the drives in IBM-branded enclosures. I've seen IBM drives in Quantum boxes, and HP / Tandberg seem to be interchangeable. Dell tends to use IBM drives a lot. You can tell an IBM drive by the big round pale-blue (IBM-branded) or black (OEM) eject button.
The externals use a SAS connector (which I'd need a card to do), while the internal drives use ?
SAS.
Was specifically looking at the Dell LTO drives that run $100 on Ebay. I could drop one of thse monsters in my new dual 2670 desktop without a problem and backup over my gigabit network.
One thing to do is to check the number of hours (both power-on and tape motion). You can do this easily on IBM drives with the ITDT utility (get it from Dell, Overland, etc. as the IBM site won't give it to you without a service contract). There is a GUI version as well as a CLI version. It will tell you the hours on the drive as well as the last few errors logged. You can also get some information on past errors as well as running basic diagnostics from the front panel display. Note that a bunch of the "we repair any tape drive" places will reject a drive for too many hours, even if all you want them to do is replace a broken button.

Newer IBM drives support dual-porting (connecting to 2 different SAS HOSTS) as well as an Ethernet for diagnostic and maintenance functions.
If there's a better tape drive or standard (LTO 5 OR 6) to use I'm all for looking into it. This option at least allows me to take my data elsewhere.
LTO4 is probably the "sweet spot" in used drives right now. LTO generally reads the 2 previous generations and writes 1 previous generation. So an LTO5 or LTO6 drive can read an LTO4 tape and an LTO5 drive can write an LTO4 tape. The latest released format, LTO7, can neither read nor write LTO4 so sites are getting rid of both the drives and media.

Be sure to get a cleaning tape. I'd recommend an unused (still in the wrapper) one - the last thing you want to do is not be sure if the cleaning was successful. A drive that still wants to be cleaned after a new cleaning tape was used on it definitely has a problem. If you try it with a used cleaning tape, you won't know if you have a drive, cleaning tape, or both problem. Cleaning tapes are universal (there isn't one for each LTO series).
 

Churchill

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frogtech

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Thank you all for your replies.

My motherboard has the following:

SAS
  • SAS2 (6Gb/s) via LSI 2308
  • SW RAID 0, 1, 10 support

This leads me to believe I can use an internal SAS cable to connect to the Tape drive.

So an :
SFF-8087

To an SF-8082 cable?

"+getMessage("iPrintVerKit")+"


LTO-4 Blank Tapes and Data Cartridges | eBay

They are taking $10-12/tape with Best Offer. Only for 800GB/1.6TB tapes
Not sure if this was supposed to be the case but your link takes me to a list of results not to an individual listing.
 

TuxDude

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And that list of results has a bunch of them in that price range, though many of those are for multiple tapes eg. 10x tapes for $125 around 1/2 way down the page. Also keep in mind that those advertised capacities are native/compressed - the 800GB/1.6TB tape holds 800GB of raw data, or using the drives hardware compression on average about 1.6TB of data per tape - if you are writing uncompressible data to the tape (eg. video files) only plan to get the 800GB on there.


@Churchill - a SFF8087 is an internal quad-port SAS connector, you will need a breakout cable to turn a single SFF-8087 into 4x individual SAS connectors, and only need 1 of those to plug into the tape drive - you can use the other 3 to plug in 3 more HDDs (SAS or SATA)
 
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cheezehead

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I don't think an internal tape drive would work connected to a SATA port - it's most likely a SAS device. Compatibility only goes one way - SAS controllers can talk to SAS and/or SATA devices, but SATA controllers can only talk to SATA devices, even though the physical connector looks the same.
Its a mix on the drives, some are actually SATA protocol and others are SAS.

Really those even regular SAS (not even SAS2) HBA's are cheap these days and work well enough for tape drives assuming you have a free PCIe slot.
Also keep in mind that those advertised capacities are native/compressed - the 800GB/1.6TB tape holds 800GB of raw data, or using the drives hardware compression on average about 1.6TB of data per tape - if you are writing uncompressible data to the tape (eg. video files) only plan to get the 800GB on there.
On video I've been getting around 820-850GB per tape while mixed content file servers around 1.2-1.4TB per tape.

I've been looking at some LTO-4 tape drive units but were a bit unsure how to best connect them. With 800/1.6TB tapes less than $10/tape it'd be a great way to backup certain files.
....
If there's a better tape drive or standard (LTO 5 OR 6) to use I'm all for looking into it. ....
Also depending on much data you have/tapes you want to managed, you could look at an LTO5 drive possibly. Prices have dropped on them recently to the point where it's still about 2x the price of LTO4 but you get double the raw capacity per tape and slightly faster write performance.
 

Churchill

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Not sure if this was supposed to be the case but your link takes me to a list of results not to an individual listing.
This looks like the one that will give me a single cable to the SAS port with power(?) on the back of an LTO drive:
0.5m SFF-8484 (device) to SFF-8087(host) Internal SAS Cable

Re Drives: I have nearly 15TB of space so I'm looking at multiple tapes to do the job for certain sets which is why I'd buy in bulk.
 

NetWise

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If any of you start delving into LTO5, I have 26 5 packs of Fuji tapes that were only opened to place barcode labels on them as far as I'm aware. Pretty sure I could find a price that makes everyone happy.

Not trying to hijack, but if it helps anyone who's considering a newer drive...


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Terry Kennedy

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I'd suggest an external drive unless there is some reason you really want an internal drive. This is for a couple of reasons:
  • You can put the drive somewhere it is convenient, rather than having to reach under a desk / into the rack to change tapes. You said you have a lot of data to back up, so you'll be doing a lot of tape swaps.
  • You can easily connect the drive to any other system that has an external SAS port.
  • External drives are designed with specific airflow patterns. Unless your server was designed to accept an optional internal LTO drive, the airflow may not be ideal - the case fans can pull unfiltered air into the drive via the loading slot and clog the mechanism and / or contaminate the head.
You might want to consider a library unit to avoid needing to manually swap tapes multiple times in the backup cycle. I like the IBM libraries (TS3100 / TS3200, also sold as the Dell TL2000 / TL4000) - the first part is a 2RU 24-drive library while the second is a 4RU 48-tape library. These libraries can hold up to 2 / 4 drives (you need the version of the drive with the sled for this library type, not a generic drive). Another choice would be the Quantum Superloader 3, although it has a bizarre conveyor-belt mechanism I describe as "a triumph of engineering over common sense".
 

Terry Kennedy

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That one looks like it has the FW760 power supply in it, which is a 90W non-redundant supply for single-drive libraries. A TL2000 with a half-height drive (so it can accept a second drive at the same time), or any TL4000 configuration (optional redundant power, up to 4 drives) would have a UP515 250W supply. You can tell the difference easily, as the UP515 has a "traffic light" vertical row of 3 LEDs on the opposite side of the fan from the power connector. [There were some earlier models of power supply, but these are the ones being used now.]

Most of the power consumption happens when the picker arm is taking a tape out of a magazine and moving it to the drive, and when the drive is starting / stopping the tape. The rest of the time, the library consumes very little power.
What about software? Any open source, or something not going to cost multiples of the actual unit?
What operating system will you be using? On FreeBSD there is dump / restore for most uses, or tar / gtar for interchange with other systems. Desktop versions of Windows have traditionally included minimal support for tape backup, though I'm not sure about Windows versions newer than 7, nor do I know what the server versions of Windows offer (though my guess is they charge extra for it there).
 
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T_Minus

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@Terry Kennedy Thanks! That's not bad at all. It would be awesome if it worked with OmniOS/Napp-IT if not I'd run another VM just for the backup to tape purpose... so it sounds like it can be scripted on BSD rather simply if I go that route.
 

Terry Kennedy

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@Terry Kennedy Thanks! That's not bad at all.
For anyone considering these - make sure the seller locks the picker before shipping the drive. Here's a link on how to make a shipping lock from a paper clip if the original has been lost. It is also important to remove any tapes from the magazines before shipping, or they will pop out and damage the picker assembly.
 
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Gnodu

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I know this isn't what you want to hear- but LTO-4 vs LTO-5... if you haven't run across the acronym "LTFS"... spend a few looking into it, to avoid buyer's remorse later. (OR, decide you don't need it... then stick with the 4.)

I bought a dell LTO-4 library, then ran across a new/sealed/returned LTO-5 at a price I couldn't pass up... and for on the fly backup, LTFS ROCKS in my opinion..... then again, I tend to backup working files that I LIKELY won't need again soon... but when I do, I REALLY need them.

whatever you do, enjoy :)
 

Churchill

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LTFS is an open standard, interchangeable with other LTO-5 and LTO-6 brands, and is also cross-platform, so you can use the tape as you would a USB flash drive. Simply load an LTFS-formatted tape into your LTO-5 or LTO-6 drive, mount it into the file system, and it becomes visible as if it were a disk.



hmm,mmmmm
 
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Gnodu

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I'm not sure I'd call it as easy as a USB (takes a little bit to reload...) but it's integrated with the OS (at least in windows it is, not used in other OS's), and simple/easy, as in drag and drop. Kind of like when they added the drag and drop CD/DVD to windows several years ago.

I'm sure a lot of users DON'T use it, but for me, it was enough to make me step up almost immediately.

Seems like 4/5 cartridges are about the same price/availability, so not a lot of difference there. (Within a couple dollars, at least!)

One other important topic to add:
It appears that while almost all drives support the automation functions (couple connectors on the back), even with the micro switches set properly/matching, you can't just swap in any drive into a library. Maybe some can be, but definitely not all. There is not a lot of info out there on this (I tried hard to figure out how to make my 5 fit into the sled and actually work!), but if you want a drive that will eventually be library capable, be careful!! (They all seem to be manufactured by 2 companies- the library versions usually have an L in the model number...)

I'm certainly no expert on this, but wanted to share my experience- good luck, you won't go wrong no matter what you do!