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IBC Blog: The age of archives

By Tom Coughlin

With the flood of video content being created due to the ease and cost-effectiveness of digital video capture and production and the decreasing costs of storage, digital content saved for the long term will explode. Moving from today’s HD to 4K UHD and then to 8K UHD and at higher frame rates will require greater storage capacities and more sophisticated data management services.

During the IBC 2014 Oracle announced that it was acquiring Front Porch Digital (FPD). Front Porch Digital adds storage management features to Oracle that should complement current Oracle storage products. FPD has been using Oracle tape systems for some time in its largest archives. FPD was the champion and promoter of the AFX storage format that has been adopted as a SMPTE standard. This standard has become popular with many FPD customers and its enabling multi-location archives. The acquisition of FPD should make Oracle an even larger player in the media and entertainment archiving and storage markets.

Quantum announced a new addition to its StorNext Pro product line (see main photo), its StorNext Pro Workgroup. This product uses the company’s StorNext 5 Connect features to provide easy to deploy and monitor, high performance and capacity tools for post and archiving. The StorNext Pro Workgroup can shift less demanding production operation storage to the company’s Lattus object storage system, providing a means for massive storage scaling while keeping hot data in higher performance storage. StorNext Pro solutions allowed creation of customized storage configurations that support various workflow operations such as upgrading X-San storage, 4K editing and general support for end-to-end content lifecycle management.

Oracle was talking about the release of its new LTFS product. This product allows for library media validation with proactive screening of media with CRC checks on cartridges. Customers can also set up policies for running tape analytics with its TA 2.0 released this year. Oracle indicated that it will have a new storage software release in the next few weeks.

Spectra Logic supplies tape library systems, some of the largest in the world, used in many archiving applications. Spectra Logic introduced its Black Pearl object storage tape system in 2013. At the 2014 IBC there were some media customers who said they were using Black Pearl in their storage systems.


XenData was demonstrating support with its archive projects with Amazon Web Services Storage. This cloud-based connectivity provides customers with an external storage option in Amazon cloud as well as the company’s support for local storage on LTO tape or Sony Optical Disc Archives (ODA) and enables a web-based MAM. XenData also partnered with Marquis Broadcast to show how their products can be used for Project Parking so customers can migrate projects to much lower cost storage when that content isn’t as hot.

There were several references to Sony’s Optical Disc Archive at IBC. This product currently stores 1.5TB of content on 12 Blu-ray optical discs but the Sony and Panasonic coalition for Blu-ray archive content says that these disks will move from 120GB to 300GB in 2015, enabling larger archive cartridges. The roadmap calls for 500GB discs in a few years and eventually 1TB discs, probably using holographic technology. The picture below shows the current products in the Sony Optical Disc Archive offering.


Sony current optical disc archive offerings

Crossroads Systems, using its StrongBox, was demonstrating how their NAS product could be used in video workflows with a demonstration of a conversion of film video to LTFS tape for long-term archiving.

The LTO Program Technology Provider Companies (HP, IBM and Quantum) announced an extension to the LTO tape roadmap to LTO 9 and LTO 10, currently LTO 6 tapes and drives are shipping. LTO 9 offers compressed capacities of 62.5TB and LTO 10 offers 120TB (actual raw capacity for LTO 10 would be 48TB). Data rates are 1.77GBps for LTO 9 and 2.75GBps for LTO 10. Note that serving data this fast makes a flash memory or other fast solid-state storage mandatory. LTO 7, the next generation, will definitely use Ba-ferrite tape and Ba-ferrite will be used through LTO 10. The LTFS file system enables spanning a file between multiple tapes, an important requirement as the size of media objects gets larger.

One interesting item at the LTO booth was a demonstration of a USB LTO drive plugged into a laptop computer. There was another LTO drive with a more traditional SAS connection on it plugged into a desktop workstation. The demonstration was showing how LTO tape could be used in the field for video workflow using a laptop computer. The picture below shows the back of the USB and SATA drive where you can see the two interfaces on the stacked drives.

USB and SAS LTO Drives

These are just some of the digital archive highlights from the IBC 2014. There are many companies offering products for digital conversion and preservation using HDDs, magnetic tape or optical discs. With the tsunami of digital content that should be archived, we will need all the technology we can get!

Dr. Tom Coughlin, president, Coughlin Associates, is a storage analyst and consultant with over 30 years in the data storage industry. He has six patents to his credit and is the author of Digital Storage in Consumer Electronics: The Essential Guide, which was published by Newnes Press. Learn more about Tom at



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