NAB 2013: Is Your Archive Active?

Posted By Tom Coughlin on April 11, 2013 12:23 pm | Permalink
Since professional video content has long time economic value, archiving has a recognized economic return.   As the resolution, frame rates and total amount of captured video content increase the amount of digital storage needed increases as well.  This trend is expected to continue in the future leading to a steady accumulating archived storage capacity.  Since video archives are likely to be accessed to monetize the content these archives are more often than not active rather than passive.  This means that the time to access the content is much shorter than a traditional passive archive.

There are a number of storage devices that are used for active video storage archiving.  These include hard disk drives (HDDs), magnetic tape and optical discs. For various reasons some archivists prefer one type of storage technology more than another.  Also, in the same active archive multiple storage devices may be used to provide the right blend of write as well as read performance and cost.  In fact there are even archive systems that use flash memory or DRAM as a layer of very fast caching storage.  It is common to use HDDs as a cache for content that eventually will be stored in digital magnetic tape.

Many companies at the 2013 NAB show were showing LTO tape archiving technology.  The latest rev of the LTO digital magnetic tape specification (rev 6) provides for a 2.5 TB disk cartridge. The LTO Consortium had a popular exhibit at the 2013 NAB promoting the new LTO 6 tape standard.   LTO revision 6 as well as 5 incorporate a file system called the LTFS file system.  The LTFS file system allows LTO tapes to appear as separate storage volumes on a computer (like  an external HDD or USB storage device). LTFS also allows new options for storage systems using LTO tape.

One of the interesting developments in LTO storage in the past year is its use for on-line or cloud archive storage.  Fujifilm, the company that manufacturers most of the magnetic tape raw media, introduced the Permivault LTO tape based cloud storage in 2012.  At the 2013 NAB show the company announced that it was using the Crossroads Systems Strongbox tape archive in its Perivault archives.  The Permivault cloud archive stores customer data on their own dedicated LTO tape cartridges giving the customer the ability to control access to the individual storage devices.

Many other companies were exhibiting LTO storage products at the 2013 NAB show including HP, IBM and Quantum (some of the leading members of the LTO Alliance), Storage DNA, Oracle, and Xendata.

The Active Archive Alliance embraces all storage devices and systems offering active archive systems and had their own booth at the 2013 NAB.  The companies represented make HDD arrays storage systems, digital tape systems as well as optical disc libraries as well as the components that service these products.  This group has undergone significant membership growth over the last year as the important role of archive archives in the Media and Entertainment and other industries has increased in importance.    

Quantum had a particularly interesting combination of storage to support active archiving including LTO tape, a distributed HDD object storage systems called Lattus (using the Amplidata distributed storage technology) a performance HDD storage layer and a metadata server product which together provide general backup and access support to many parts of a modern media workflow.

There were a surprising number of optical archive products on display at the 2013 NAB show.   Both Sony and Panasonic have announced 12 disc Blu-ray disc cartridge products with storage capacities of about 1.5 TB and expandable to at least 3 TB.  Companies such as Q-Stor were showing optical disk library storage systems.  There are media and entertainment clients that prefer optical storage to digital magnetic tape archive storage.

Other interesting archive offerings included those of Front Porch Digital (FPD).  FPD has a line of SAMMA products for digitization of older analog storage formats as well as its DIVA on-line archive service.  The latest Diva 7.1 version has modularized the application and allows more rapid introduction of  new features that are making this product more useful in all layers of the video workflow.  

As digital storage content increases in resolution, frame rate and total hours of video in storage the demand for content archiving will increase both in required storage capacity as well as archive performance.  The need for access to archived content has led to a strong movement towards active archives.  Faster access to large content files has also resulted in multiple layers of storage used in today's archive systems including flash memory, HDDs, magnetic digital tapes and optical storage.

Tom Coughlin, President, Coughlin Associates is a widely respected storage analyst and consultant.  You can find out more about him at  He is the organizer of the 2013 Creative Storage Conference, June 25, 2013 in Culver City, CA,