LTO Tape Shipments Reached Almost 150 Exabytes in 2022

The LTO Program Technology Provider Companies released a report on May 23 that the total capacity of LTO tape shipped in 2022 reached 148.3 exabytes. The caveat is that it is the total estimated compressed capacity, so this is a bit of marketing hype rather than reality. Actual uncompressed native LTO storage shipped in 2022 was likely “only” around 60 exabytes.

I was curious how that compared to hard drive shipments in 2022. Seagate alone, for example, shipped a total of 631.5 exabytes of hard drive capacity in 2022.

Still, it is interesting to see LTO not only survive but thrive as a large-scale backup technology.

One of the reasons is that LTO has continued to steadily increase tape capacities, with current generation LTO-9 supporting 18tb uncompressed and the group controlling the technology having a roadmap that takes LTO up to 576tb by generation 14.

Dropbox Details Its Shift to SMR Drives

Dropbox posted an analysis of its adoption of shingled magnetic recording (SMR) drives in its data centers.

SMR is a storage method that writes data to overlapping magnetic tracks. The technique allows for higher storage density and lower power consumption but generally results in slower write speeds, as multiple tracks may have to be overwritten to write new data to the drive.

The adoption of SMR got Western Digital into legal trouble a few years ago after it surreptitiously began shipping SMR drives as part of its Red NAS line of hard drives without informing consumers.

In its analysis of its adoption of SMR, Dropbox notes that as of 2023, about 90 percent of the hard drives in its data centers are SMR.

The advantages are a roughly 20 percent increase in density while leading to large declines in power usage requirements,

The energy required to operate our hard drives is measured in power consumption per terabyte (TB/watt). Since our first 4 TB deployment, TB/watt has decreased by around 5-6x—largely because our SMR drives can cram more terabytes into the same physical and energy footprints as conventional PMR drives.

Our very first 14 TB SMR drive almost cut our power footprint in half for idle and random read workloads compared to its PMR predecessor. Our latest 18 TB and 20 TB drives show an amazing ~.30 watts per 1 TB in idle and ~.50 watts per 1 TB for random read workloads. Data from our vendors suggests this trend will continue, even as capacities increase.

Even as it is extolling the virtues of SMR, however, Dropbox is already preparing for the future, which it believes is heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). HAMR is a technique that heats the hard drive to 450 degrees Celsius for a nanosecond as it writes data. This allows data to be stored in smaller areas on the disk, allowing overall disk density to be much higher. HAMR promises future 3.5″ hard drives with 50TB capacities.

In anticipation of this next jump in areal density, our focus has shifted from increasing the number of HDDs in our enclosures to minimizing the impact that physical vibrations can have on the I/O performance of higher density drives. While there was much more margin for vibrations in prior designs, that margin is now much less as HDD data tracks become smaller and spaced more closely together. It’s common to see high frequency vibrations cause head positioning errors, which can, in turn, cause performance degradation. Vibration can come from fans, the rotational forces and seek actions of nearby HDDs, even the HDD itself—or, when frustrated enough, a yelling engineer. ?

Our focus in the future will be to minimize HDD performance degradation from system vibrations by suppressing structural vibration of the system chassis and reducing fan noise. Putting more focus into this area will be critical as we onboard next generation HDDs, and it’s great to see some efforts already underway in the Open Compute Project (OCP) community. We are planning to leverage the OCP’s HDD Acoustical Surrogate—a new industry-standard specification for vibrational testing—in our seventh generation designs.

Jonah Edwards’ Presentation on Internet Archive Infrastructure

Jonah Edwards, Infrastructure and Operations Manager for the Internet Archive, put together a fascinating presentation on the Internet Archive’s infrastructure.

It’s amazing to think of a 200 petabyte archive that is growing 20-24 petabytes each year, and what it takes to keep that all running.

Scientists Use CRISPR to Store Data in DNA

In a paper published in Nature Chemical Biology, researchers described how they used CRISPR sequences to store data in DNA in a way that could preserve the integrity of the data over generations,

DNA has been the predominant information storage medium for biology and holds great promise as a next-generation high-density data medium in the digital era. Currently, the vast majority of DNA-based data storage approaches rely on in vitro DNA synthesis. As such, there are limited methods to encode digital data into the chromosomes of living cells in a single step. Here, we describe a new electrogenetic framework for direct storage of digital data in living cells. Using an engineered redox-responsive CRISPR adaptation system, we encoded binary data in 3-bit units into CRISPR arrays of bacterial cells by electrical stimulation. We demonstrate multiplex data encoding into barcoded cell populations to yield meaningful information storage and capacity up to 72?bits, which can be maintained over many generations in natural open environments. This work establishes a direct digital-to-biological data storage framework and advances our capacity for information exchange between silicon- and carbon-based entities.

Samsung Promises Fail-In-Place/’Never Die’ SSDs

Samsung is planning to create SSDs equipped with what it calls “fail-in-place technology” that will protect the drives from traditional failure methods.

Samsung’s FIP technology marks a new milestone in the 60-year history of storage by ensuring that SSDs maintain normal operation even when errors occur at the chip level, enabling a never-dying SSD for the first time in the industry. In the past, failure in just one out of several hundred NAND chips meant having to replace an entire SSD, causing system downtime and additional drive replacement cost. SSDs integrated with Samsung’s FIP software can detect a faulty chip, scan for any damage in data, then relocate the data into working chips. For instance, if a fault is identified in any of the 512 NAND chips inside a 30.72TB SSD, the FIP software would automatically activate error-handling algorithms at the chip level while maintaining the drive’s high, stable performance.

This technology will initially be available primarily on SSDs intended for data centers, but hopefully it will eventually find its way into consumer-level drives.