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Despite what many say, tapes are far from dead. In fact past few years we have seen the tapes converge to 2 Major Formats -  LTO and 3592 media.  Vendors ( LTO consortium for LTO and IBM/Fuji for 3592) have been investing in both the formats and they remain the choice of media for the last tier of storage.

The Latest Generation of LTO tape media - LTO-8 offers Native capacity of 12TB ( 30TB on typical data compression).  Further, you can format a previously unused LTO-7 tape media as LTO-8 Type M and get 9TB Native Capacity.  This makes the new LTO-8 extremely compelling for an upgrade - it offers cheapest Cost per TB.  Even though the cost of the LTO-8 media is fairly high ( and will probably fall as with most of the new techs),  the LTO-7 media itself has a stable pricing. When you upgrade, you can make use of LTO-7 pricing and have a media that gives you 9 native Terabytes for the lowest cost per TB.

Here is a comparison of Cost per TB for currently running LTO media.  We have not included LTO-1,2 and 3 in the comparison as they have completely phased out and the supplies have become scarce too.  


Media Native Capacity (TB) Retail Price- AED Cost Per TB - AED Remarks
LTO-3 0.4 110 275.00  
LTO-4 0.8 85 106.25  
LTO-5 1.5 85 56.67  
LTO-6 2.5 90 36.00 Cheapest Cost Per TB, but Takes more tapes to save same amount of Data. Will be obsolete soon.
LTO-7 6 325 54.17  
LTO-8 Type M 9 325 36.11 Cheapest Cost Per TB
LTO-8 12 700 58.33 Almost Same as LTO-7, will surely fall .
  • LTO-8 Type M offers the lowest cost per TB, 50% lower than LTO-7. ( offcourse you have 50% more capacity but same price)
  • LTO-8 would soon become the lowest Cost per TB as the prices fall. Currently LTO-8 offers same cost per TB as LTO-7.
  • Upgrade now, use LTO-7 media as LTO-8 type M.  Start using LTO-8 whenever the prices of Media match your Cost per TB expectation.

In January,  Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities were discovered that affect several processors from Intel, AMD and even ARM.  Since this vulnerability is in the processor, a wide range of machines are at risk including PCs, servers and smartphones. Cloud is no exception since your Cloud service providers hardware would be vulnerable.  This is a vulnerability that is not tied to a single operating system or badly written program, it rather stems directly from the way the processor executes the information.

There are many models in Qnap and Synology that are powered by these processors, so in theory your data could be vulnerable in your NAS too.

Which Models of NAS are Vulnerable

In Theory, any NAS that is powered by an effected processor is vulnerable. In Practice though, unless you have a rouge application installed on your NAS , there is very little chance that your data could leak.  These vulnerabilities  rely on something called as "Speculative Execution" , and require a local application to exploit it.  Say when a rouge website can steal the information from another Running program on your PC , or from the PC memory.  With Virtual machines running on your NAS and Applications running on containers, the risk increases.

So far, there haven't been any reports of any data breach due to this pair of vulnerabilities in NAS products, but both Qnap and Synology have confirmed that they are working on software patches to fix the vulnerability.

Till the Patches are available

Till the patches are available, you should try and

1. Not install any untrusted application on NAS
2. Don't run any untrusted VM or Container App.
3. Ensure all the users on NAS are secured and have appropriate privileges only.

Severability of the Risk

Meltdown is easier to exploit but is also easier to patch. Spectre is difficult to exploit and the patches will be rolled out slowly too. So far there are no reports of anybody exploiting these, but then maybe they have gone un noticed. What makes it severe is that it lies in the hardware chipset itself, so potentially millions of machines are vulnerable.  A software that was secure in past may turn into an exploit tool with these vulnerabilities.

Goods news is that there is no report of exploit so far , and the patches are in work. Keep an eye on the updates and install as soon as available, even if it makes your PC slow.


This month both Qnap and Synology Announced the availability of new packages built around Machine Learning and AI.

Qnap First .

Qnap is targeting the Ameatures programmers and data scientists with its QuAI Developer's package. A package that can help the data scientists build ,train and deploy their machine Learning Models right on Qnap.
This was highly anticipated ever since Qnap started to ship out machines with GPU Support. Possible applications of a GPU on Qnap could be - Cryptocurrency mining ( yes, you can do that on qnap), Gaming ( with HDMI port connected to your TV) and off course training your ML model.

Its worth Noting that QuAI is just package with all the popular libraries built in - a Container. As such, you don't need to have QuAI to write your ML code. You could easily run a Virtual machine on Qnap and download whichever library you work with. For Example I could have Ubuntu running in a container ( or a Virtual machine) on Qnap and install python, NLTK and Tensorflow on Ubuntu.

What QuAI does facilitate is -

A) it makes creating the environment fast and easy. Within minutes you could have your entire framework and environment setup.
B) It can make use of the GPU.

You have option of installing QuAI with major popular libraries like Tensorflow, Caffe, Caffe2, MS CNTK and MXNET. How much processing power you get for training and deploying your ML model depends on your GPU.

Now about Synology. Synology has Applied Machine learning and released the beta version of Synology Moments. Moments is an app that can group your photos into similar groups based on the faces, places and objects. Technically it is Unsupervised Clustering done by your NAS , that's AI !

So far the options for managing photos on NAS relied heavily on EXIF metadata , and manual tags. For example if you took a photo with your phone with the GeoTag photo settings and saved it to your NAS , you would have a photo which has Exif data of the Location it was clicked on and a Date. With this NAS would give you the option to filter the photos according to date or Location. That's as far as you can go with this approach. If you wanted anything more, you would have to TAG the photo manually.

With Moments it changes for Synology users. Now the machine will scan the photos for know patterns , and for patterns within the images and cluster them together. It will further tag the photos too so you can search based on the tags. On the models with slower processors, only facial recognition is supported , and higher models support both face and subject recognition. You must have node.js installed on Synology for moments to work.

Its interesting to see the NAS vendors offering packages built around machine learning. This is just the beginning and I can foresee a lot many more applications on NAS coming up. Both Qnap and Synology Surveillance apps are going to deploy ML for pattern recognition for sure. Right now the only limiting factor for these vendors is the amount of processing power they have.

A lot is happening in AI world and surveillance industry is not left behind  in implementing it in Video Analytic – to find and flag unusual patterns, to reduce the number of false alarms and for behavioral analysis. Now is the time when we have enough processing power required for machine learning.  Dahua has announced that it will use intel movidius to build AI in certain camera models and Hikvision has announced AI cloud - which will combine Edge computing with selective data being sent to Cloud for further computing.  This is extremely interesting to see how the AI processing will not happen only in the NVR, but also in the Cameras.

However, one thing that doesn’t change is that Eventually all the data ( and metadata) will still be stored to the hard drives (with SD Caching ).  Now for AI Analytics , the storage system ( and the hard drives in turn) would have to provide high speed access to the video footage. Imagine the workload a hard drive would have , when there are multiple channels writing to it , and a couple of streams are being read off the disk for AI purpose. A hard drive would need to be much faster than the current one ( to provide the stream of video to AI analytic without affecting the footage write to the disk) and also have a much higher annual workload compared to current surveillance grade drives.


Enter Seagate AI enabled Skyhawk Drives . The choice of the name – “AI Enabled” is very interesting but  it doesn't mean that there is AI built in the drive. There is no machine learning algorithm , or processing power built in the drive itself  What it can do however is - Provide a higher throughput to the AI enabled application.


So the AI Enabled Skyhawk drives are - drives with higher throughput, enabling any AI enabled surveillance program to read and write at a higher speed than the current surveillance grade drives.   These drives have been launched at a time when a lot is happening in AI in Surveillance.
Currently there are only high capacities with this feature - 8 and 10TB . Apart from a higher throughput, they have 3 times higher annual workload than the regular skyhawk (550TB/Annum compared to 180), which is at par with the Exos ( The re branded Constellation Enterprise drives). Warranty offered is 5 years, again same as the Exos drives.


Improved Capacity and Transfer rate

Capacity of course doubles with every new release of LTO .  LTO-8's  12TB native is double the 6TB native of LTO-7 Media. Apart from capacity the performance has to be increased, so that the tape drive can write faster to the tapes.  Compared to LTO-7, there is a 20% increase in the performance too. 

Capacity and transfer rates - both are improved with each new generation tape . 

BaFe and TMR make it possible

Earlier generation of LTO tapes used Metal particle technology that maxed out around LTO-5.  HP still kept shipping LTO-6 on Metal particle technology, whenever other manufacturer switched to BaFe Technology ( Though recently Quantum also switched to Metal particle on their LTO-6 media probably to save cost).

Form LTO-7 onwards there was no doubt that only BaFe (Barrim Ferrite) could achieve the kind of areal density required for future capacities. However with LTO-8, you would need an even smaller tape head to read and write at an even small scale.  The new TMR (Tunneling Magnetoresistive) drive heads  make it possible to achieve the areal density required to achieve 12TB on a single tape. 

LTO-7 Compatibility with a new Capacity

Every generation of new LTO tape drive is backward compatible to 2 previous generations of Media. For Example LTO-7 was read write compatible with LTO-6 media and read only compatible with LTO-5 media.  However with LTO-8, for the first time the LTO-7 media is not only compatible but can be formatted to LTO-8 Type M format with 50% advance in capacity. 
What is means is that you can not only read/write on your earlier 6TB LTO-7 used media, but you can also format your previously unused LTO-7 media to LTO-8 type M media and enjoy 9TB native. 

This is similar to IBM 3590 and 3592 tapes where the same tape could be used with different drives to yield different capacities. 

The Future ?

Right now LTO Consortium has the roadmap upto 12th Generation LTO ( 480TB Compressed on a single tape). There are all the indications that the tapes are  going to be used in future too , as they are currently - For the cost effective, reliable last tier storage. They will continue to evolve in Capacities , transfer rates and low cost of storage Per TB. 

QNAP announced the availability of  Mattermost  team communication system on its NAS today. 

Mattermost is an open source slack alternative for workplace messaging and communication. Major difference between Mattermost and Slack is that Mattermost is selfhost. Now the businesses can install Mattermost on their Qnap NAS, turning it into a private chat server that stores all their chat messages and files . Android and iOS apps let the users be always connected to the server. 

Synology has confirmed the availabilty of C2 cloud for Middle East too.  C2 Cloud has 2 solutions - Backup and DR. The Backup solution is capable of backing up your data to the C2 cloud, while the DR solution boasts a service continuity in case of failure as certain services can be resumed in the cloud.  We will be reselling both DR and Backup solutions 

Printronix is an Industry leader in Line Matrix printers and is renowned for Manufacturing Industrial grade heavy duty rugged printers that are ideal for mission cricital printing. Last week they introduced 2 new serial line printers - S809 and S828. Both will use a 25 million character Ribbon. 

 

We have the LTO-8 type M labels available now from Tri-optics.  

LTO-8 Type M is the previously unusued LTO-7 Media that can be reformatted for use in LTO-8 drive. For the drivie automation to recgnize the media, it has to use the 'M8' Identifier

 

LTO-8 Drives will start shipping in Q12018. As usual there is a capacity increase in LTO-8 drives ( 12TB Native, double that of LTO-7), but this is not the only differentiating factor for this new drive.  

For the first time, you will be to use an LTO-7 Media  in LTO-8 drive with 9TB Capacity - 50% more than you would get in LTO-7 Drive.  This is similar to 3590 or 3592 Media where the same media yields different capacities in different drives. 

  • LTO-7 Media has to be new and previously unused 
  • It will have to be formatted as LTO-8 Type M media. It will only work in LTO-8 drive once formatted in such a way
  • If LTO-7 Media that has been previously formatted on LTO-7 drive is used in LTO-8, it would yield the same 6TB Capacity. 

The table below shows the compatibiltiy and possible use of LTO-7 media in LTO-7/8 drives. 

 

Media  Capacity in LTO-7 Drive Capacity in LTO-8 Drive
LTO-7 Media   6 / 15TB 6/15TB
LTO-7 New Media Formatted as LTO8 Type M  Not compatible 9/22.5TB
LTO-8 Media Not Compatible 12/30TB

This means that simply by upgrading to an LTO-8 driver, the custmer can realize the benefit of an increased capacity, even with their existing (new and unused) inventories of LTO-7 Media. 

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