Shifting the tape management paradigm
LTFS 2 Technology: Segment 2
Let me ask another question, because I think LTFS is really interesting technology and I’m not sure everyone is familiar with it. If I was a company and I wanted to use LTFS for my data, I wanted to store data on LTFS, what would I need to do? How much work would that take for me to implement an LTFS solution in my environment?
That’s a great question. So, let’s think about and let’s talk about the single drive implementation of LTFS. The LTFS software is available, as I mentioned, on Linux, Windows, and OS X, and on each of those platforms there are different versions of the software. The original version of the software and the most approachable for this scenario is what’s referred to as the LTFS SDE or Single Drive Edition. So to use the software you would need a computer running one of the operating systems I mentioned, you would need to go to a tape drive vendor and purchase an LTFS-5 tape drive and some tapes, and then you would need to download and install the software that’s provided by the vendor for LTFS that matches your tape drive.
This software was originally implemented by my team at IBM and we open-sourced the software which meant that other vendors such as HP were able to pick up the open source implementation, add in the code that is specific to operating with their proprietary tape drives such as the HP tape drive, and they have released their own version of the software based off of the same code and the majority of the code executing the software is identical to what IBM uses. HP largely extended to add support for their own tape drives.
Once you have the tape drive hardware connected to your computer, and the software installed, you would need to insert a cartridge and perform an operation to format that cartridge for LTFS. On Linux that operation is a command line tool that is logically equivalent to the MKFS utility that’s used in Linux to format a device to have a file system. On Windows, there is a context menu on the tape drive in the Windows GUI that you can right click and select "Format Cartridge" and have the system go off and format the tape. Once the format is complete, another operation is performed to mount that cartridge and then once that cartridge is mounted you can copy files to and from that cartridge in exactly the same way you would copy files anywhere else in that platform. In Linux and Windows and OS X you can drag and drop, if you’re using a GUI, you can use command line tools such as CP or ASIIC to copy data from your local hard drive to the tape drive. Then once you’ve finished performing those copy operations you can eject the cartridge.
I’ve focused on the copy operations because that’s how you get data to and from the cartridge, but you can also just access the data that’s on the cartridge itself. At a number of the trade shows such as NAB and IBC where we demoed LTFS over the years, we’ve demonstrated HD video being played back using a standard playback software such as BLC or Windows Media player straight from the cartridge itself. In testing, I’ve imported video files that were stored in an LTFS volume directly into Final Cut, I have edited a Word document and saved it directly to the LTFS volume without having to store it locally on the hard drive.
The quick summary to your question is you get some tape hardware, you download the free software and install it, and it just works.
That’s really cool. It seems like it sort of changes the paradigm a little bit in regards to using tape because now the tape metaphor has changed from what it used to be in back up which is a proprietary/SCSI, not proprietary really, open but not necessarily as friendly perhaps as it might be in a traditional disk environment where you might just have a drive letter. It sounds like what LTFS brings to the table is the ability to change how we access tape to make it simple, drag and drop, like a drive letter like you would with a traditional disk-based NAS share perhaps. Is that sort of about right for a layman’s summary?
That’s exactly right. Accessing files stored on an LTFS volume from the user’s perspective is exactly the same set of operations as accessing files on a local hard drive or a NAS volume, modulo the slight difference or the perceived difference in access time.