Spectra Logic Takes on Glacier

Spectra Logic is taking on Glacier (Amazon’s product for cold storage) in both senses of that term. Another way to say it is they are in “coopetitiion” with Glacier. First, BlackPearl is Spectra Logic’s object storage system that supports both disk and tape as a back end and is positioned as a replacement for Glacier. In addition, BlackPearl now also supports Glacier as a tier.

First, let’s take a look at what Glacier is. It is an object storage service that has the same durability as S3 (99.999999999%) but different access characteristics and cost. It’s $.007/GB per month with no upload fees. You can also retrieve up to 5 percent (pro-rated daily) of your average monthly storage for free. Beyond that retrievals are $.01/GB or less, versus $.09/GB for S3 retrievals.

The other interesting aspect of Glacier is how retrievals work. They are done in a two-step process where a customer application requests the retrieval, after which Glacier prepares the data for download. This preparation step takes three to five hours, after which the user can retrieve the data.

Glacier is as black as a black box can be. Amazon offers no details of how they will store your data, only that they will do so less than a penny a month per gigabyte, you get 11 nines of durability, and that it takes multiple hours to retrieve an archive. But if you ask if it is disk or tape, or if they use erasure coding, RAID, or replication, they will simply not respond to the question.

But it’s hard to argue with less than a penny per gigabyte per month — or is it? Spectra Logic’s BlackPearl offering is aimed squarely at Glacier, its TCO and lack of transparency. If you’d like to know how your data is stored, still want all the data resiliency features of Glacier, and want to keep your TCO lower than Amazon offers, Spectra Logic would like to talk to you about BlackPearl.

They are also going to support those customers who want to keep a copy in the cloud. One of the unique things about their Glacier support is direct retrievals from Glacier. The three to five hours retrieval time creates a problem for many applications, which is why most of them choose to retrieve with S3 which has significant cost ramifications. It costs more to store and retrieve data in S3 than it is in Glacier. In fact, retrievals are almost ten times the price of a Glacier retrieval.

Spectra Logic, on the other hand, is familiar dealing with tape and already supports long latencies in their BlackPearl product. Therefore, automatic and seamless retrievals from Glacier are no problem. They claim to be one of very few vendors offering such a solution.

Spectra Logic is also getting support from Cyberduck, which is a drag and drop interface that connects users to various cloud services, including Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Customers of BlackPearl can install the Cyberduck BlackPearl client and easily drag-and-drop files between BlackPearl and other destinations.

StorageSwiss Take

Spectra Logic tape-centric view of the world continues to grow. While the core of its revenue is still tape drives and tape libraries, it understands the more it integrates tape with other modern-day storage systems, the more tape libraries it will sell. BlackPearl makes Spectra Logic tape libraries compatible with other S3 based object storage systems, including services like Amazon S3 and Glacier. Customers who are already using object storage will find a very inexpensive option in BlackPearl and Spectra Logic tape libraries, and now they can also put a copy in Glacier.

W. Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) is an expert in backup & recovery systems; a space he has been working in since 1993. He has written three books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery. Mr. Preston is a writer and has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences around the world. Preston’s mission is to arm today’s IT managers with truly unbiased information about today’s storage industry and its products.

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