How dead is tape in 2017? HP thinks it's not
November 27, 2017
HP 3000s have been held together with tape. Mylar tape, the sort in 8-inch reels and modern cartridges, has been the last resort for recovery. The world of MPE/iX computing survived on its backups whenever things went awry. It's easy to assume tape's dead these days. People think the same thing about the HP 3000s. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise agrees with the latter death notice, not the former. Tape thrives today because of Big Data.
Why would an MPE/iX customer care about newer tape? Resources like on-premise backup are shared today, here in the era where HP is read to sell a seventh-generation of Linear Tape Open. LTO isn't costly, which makes it a good fit for the always-economical 3000 world. In fact, the media is cheaper than the more common DLT tapes.
"I would still recommend LTO," says Craig Lalley of EchoTech. "I know a couple of my customers are using it. The performance will not be as high as other computers', but that's more or a CPU/backplane issue."
The MAXTAPBUF parameter is essential in using LTO, he adds. As to speed,
The N-Class 750—with a couple CPUs and a high speed fibre disc sub system that definitely helps—but it will never peak the LTO-1 throughput. It's still the fastest tape storage for the HP 3000. So the real advantage is amount of storage. And remember, it is always possible to store in parallel: two, three and four tape drives at once, in parallel as opposed to serial.
It seems that the new job for tape in 2017 is not everyday backups. These ought to be done to disk, a function supported by MPE/iX since 1998. Today's tape is there to backup the disk backups. Backups of backups are very much a part of the MPE Way.
The forthcoming HPE StoreEver MSL3040 Tape Library is designed for small to mid-sized organizations. It offers flexibility and storage capacity of up to 4.08PB with LTO-7. Hewlett-Packard is just one of many companies to keep pushing LTO forward. The standard isn't moving all that fast, though. Five years ago LTO-5 was the cutting edge for complete data protection and secure, long-term retention of business assets.
Using LTO devices for backups of backups on-premise is straightforward for anyone who's created a virtual HP 3000 using Stromasys Charon. So long as the host Linux server can communicate with the LTO device, it can backup a 3000 that's been virtualized. An emulator removes the risk of staying on the MPE/iX environment. A virtualized server won't be tied to interfaces from 15-year-old 3000 iron, or IO designs first crafted in the 1990s.
One of the primary advantages of creating the 3000's PA-RISC architecture was supposed to be peripheral support. HP would write and maintaining fewer device drivers once its enterprise servers shared an architecture. PA-RISC led HP away from the HP-IB interface, something Hewlett-Packard created for instruments, not computers. But in practice, the operating systems still needed specialized engineering to pass data quickly between server and peripheral.
These LTO tape drives are the kind of peripherals which HP supported more slowly, if at all, during the final decade of MPE lab work. The first LTO with an HP badge, Ultrium, ran half as fast (160 mb/sec) as the same unit hooked to HP-UX -- because its mandatory MPE interface was engineered for half the bandwidth of the more updated Unix-based servers. HP never made up the difference in speed, and that shortfall arrived right out of the gate with LTO-1. LTO-5 was the state of the art in 2010, two years after HP closed the MPE labs.