TV-BAY August 13 issue 80

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libraries. The family is now up to LTO- 6, with each new generation doubling (roughly speaking) the storage density, helping with the huge amounts of data we keep generating. So problem solved, then? Well no. LTO is a storage system, a way of keeping the data. But it is not an archive in itself. That would be like saying we can just buy a Raid array and it will be an archive – it won’t. What you need is some way of describing what is on the tape, so we can make sense of it later. At the moment that is some sort of archive software, which may be part of the asset management platform or it might be in a separate hierarchical storage application. It knows what is on each tape. When LTO-7 comes along two tapes may become one, and the archive software would keep track of that. The problem, though, is one of longevity. 50 years from now when you want to recover something you have not seen in decades, you will probably be using an asset management system which is eight generations on from where we are today. Will that still know where your stuff is? Is that a good way to manage platform migration? And that is where LTFS comes in? LTFS, remember, is the Linear Tape File System. The important point here is that it is a file system. Specifically, it is a self-describing file system: it defines the organisation of both essence data and metadata on each tape. So a tape written in the LTFS format can be used independently of any external database or storage system. You simply plug an LTFS-format tape into a drive and it can be read without problems, either by the drive’s own application or by any asset management system. The files on the tape are fully described. So assets are truly portable, between systems and over time. You can keep a tape for 50 years – or more – and it can be loaded into whatever we will be calling asset management in 2060. Or you can take an LTFS tape from your asset management system, plug it into a different system somewhere else, and it instantly becomes useful. It does not completely populate the asset management system, because that would involve making it specific to a particular system, which is what we are trying to avoid. The file system is deliberately simple to guarantee portability. That also means that, should your main archive be destroyed by fire or flood, you could pick up your offsite backup LTFS tapes and be back on air, in any facility which can give you space, as soon as you load the tapes. What happens if new storage mechanisms come along? Some vendors are talking about Maid storage: the massive array of idle disks. Others suggest that holographic storage may be the way of the future. But LTFS is a file system, so it has to be open to any changes in storage technology, because we know that LTO will develop in the future. That means it could just as easily be applied to Maid or holography or whatever else comes along. It is a file system: it describes what is on the storage unit, whether that is a tape or a disk or anything else. Most people for now will be using it with LTO drives and robots. But its simplicity also makes it very flexible. If it is as good as it sounds, it has to be expensive, complex or both LTFS is a widely supported format in the IT industry, developed originally by IBM and maintained by a broad consortium of manufacturers. It is an open standard, freely licensed to anyone who wants to implement it. Being part of the IT industry, it benefits from the huge R&D budgets available, so products supporting it are already available, including LTO drives and robots. It means that broadcast vendors can concentrate our investment where it is really important: on the applications which run on this commodity hardware. At TMD we are already implementing our first large-scale archive project which is using LTFS to future-proof a huge amount of content. Others are sure to follow. TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 80 AUGUST 2013 | 47