Sony Ends MO Production–What Are Your Long-Term Archive Options Now?
August 19, 2015 Alex Woodie
Sony finally ended production of its magneto optical (MO) media at the end of 2014, forcing customers downstream to look for alternatives, if they haven’t already. That includes a number of customers in the government and healthcare industries who use MO drives with IBM‘s midrange server. These customers have a number of options available to them.
Sony’s decision to end production of all MO media, including 9.1 GB, 5.2 GB, 2.6 GB, should not come as a shock to anybody who is paying attention. The company had ceased manufacturing MO drives a while ago, but continued to make MO media for a bit longer to satisfy demand. The 25-year-old technology has run its course and it’s time to move onto something else.
Customers have several main options to replace their MO investments, which many customers still use for backup and archive. Here are the top four technologies that can replace MO in your shop:
The most obvious alternative to MO technology is LTO tape technology. The LTO format offers huge capacities that far exceed what MO could offer. And LTO can also deliver the write once, read many (WORM) capability that attracted companies (particularly those in the healthcare industry) to optical technologies like MO in the first place. While tape has been declared dead many times, LTO has a long life ahead of it. LTO technology is currently in its sixth generation, offering 2.5 TB of storage per cartridge (native), and the roadmap goes out to 10th generation, which will offer 48 TB of storage.
Advantages: LTO capacities are huge, the roadmap is strong, and many vendors support it.
Disadvantages: Tape is subject to stretching and wear, and may not work when you need it.
The Ultra Density Optical (UDO) format was created by IBM and Plasmon about 15 years ago as a replacement for MO. The first generation of UDO media provided 30 GB of storage and the second generation boosted that to 60 GB. For clients who appreciated the ruggedness, long lifespan, and WORM capabilities of MO technologies, UDO was a natural replacement. Support for encryption also made UDO a favorite among companies in regulated industries.
When Plasmon went belly-up a few years ago, its assets were bought by Alliance Storage Technologies Inc. (ASTI), which continues to develop and sell Plasmon’s UDO technology. ASTI works with clients, including IBM i shops, to migrate from MO technology to UDO technology. The company continues to sell Plasmon’s G-Series libraries, which can contain both MO and UDO drives in the same frame.
While MO drives (let alone MO media) are no longer being made, the company maintains a stockpile of the drives for G-Series customers. These customers can continue to use the MO drives to read existing MO cartridges, while writing new data using the UDO technology. A spokesperson for the Colorado Springs, Colorado, company says ASTI is working on a new generation of technology, but details have not yet been released.
Advantages: UDO media is nearly bullet-proof.
Disadvantages: UDO capacities are smaller compared to LTO. The roadmap is unclear and dependent on one vendor.
Over the past few years, a number of IBM business partners have gotten into the cloud computing space and become managed service providers (MSPs) with an eye toward the IBM i. Back-up is the number one IBM i workload supported on the cloud these days, although some shops are using MSPs for running entire workloads.
In some cases, cloud providers are storing clients’ IBM i-based backups on other Power Systems servers, where applications and data can be quickly recovered in the case of a disaster. In other cases, the data is stored on commodity X86 servers, requiring it to be moved before it can be used.
Advantages: Cloud storage is cheap and easy to access.
Disadvantages: Moving data off-premise may violate security policies.
USB Jump Drives
The USB-connected flash drive has become a ubiquitous part of the lives of consumers and small businesses. After all, where else can you get 64 GB of storage for $20 or so? If you need to store the entire archive of Aerosmith songs in a portable and easy-to-use manner, a jump drive is perfect.
However, jump drives leave something to be desired when it comes to features that enterprises value, such as security, manageability, auditability, and reliability (although this editor has proven that jump drives can survive multiple trips through the washing machine).
In any event, since the launch of IBM i 7.1 TR6 two years ago, IBM does let you move data off the IFS onto USB-connected jump drives. This will be handy for moving documents and other PC-formatted data, but it’s not much use for backing up data stored in DB2 for i.
Advantages: It’s easy to use–just plug it in and “Dream On!”
Disadvantages: No controls for security, auditing, or management; only supports IFS data.