Intersec Blog

Tale of the Tape for Video Surveillance Storage

Posted by Richard McKeon on Feb 13, 2017 10:00:00 AM

Tim Compston, Guest Writer for Security News Desk and, discovers that linear tape-based solutions are very much in the frame when it comes to meeting the soaring storage requirements of video surveillance and other security data.

In this era of the cloud, centralised servers, and RAID, advocates of Linear Tape-Open (LTO) technology are confident of expanding its footprint - as a practical answer to the back-up and long-term storage of video surveillance and other security information - in today's increasingly data hungry world. The high-tech companies behind LTO believe that success in other sectors like IT, media and entertainment, is a sign of things to come for video surveillance.

Although a relatively new concept for CCTV users, the LTO development roadmap is, in fact, still going strong more than a decade-and-a-half on from the initiative's birth. Its proponents report, given the technology’s favourable cost of ownership, that more and more large-scale enterprises are likely to factor tape into their storage plans alongside disk or the cloud, outside of fast back-up and retrieval, and to support technology diversification/redundancy and, in the case of cybersecurity issues, system isolation.

Giant StorageLTO Programme

Talking to Laura Loredo, Product Marketing Manager at HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise), on the side-lines of a recent security event, for an inside track on the LTO programme, she confirms that the three key vendors driving this technology forward are specifically: IBM, Quantum, and HPE: "We get together and write the specifications. These are open standards for anyone who wants to make LTO products."

Loredo is certainly an enthusiastic advocate of the LTO and reveals that, crucially, it is now on its seventh generation (LTO-7) so the approach is one which is already well proven: "The technology has been out in the market since 2000. This has been mainly in IT environments but with generation five [LTO-5] we introduced partitioning in a format which allows you to get into the file system."

The key benefit that LTO’s support for partitioning unlocks, explains Loredo, is that it allows operating systems to recognise the tape drive like a storage device, such as a hard drive or USB stick: "We wrote the file system which allows you to just drag and drop data the same way that you would do with a hard drive. That has already helped us get into other industries like the media and entertainment and now into the video surveillance.”

Cost of Ownership

For Loredo a critical edge that LTO has over other storage architectures is the reportedly lower cost of storing such ‘big data’: “When you hold a lot of data - big videos - that's data that needs to be kept for long periods of time so you want to move it out of the primary storage and get it into secondary storage which is cheaper, less expensive, storage That is where tape helps and where LTO comes in.”

Turning to Mark O'Malley, Senior Manager - EMEA Marketing at Quantum, for his perspective on the direction of travel for LTO, he feels that the video surveillance industry is beginning to wake up to the true potential of starting on disk and moving to tape, something that is already a reality in the IT sector: "The VMS suppliers - the Milestones of this world – are now working on systems that automatically migrate data from disk to tape. Your video surveillance data might land on disk to start with, and stay there for a few days or a few weeks, but at a certain point you will be able to migrate it automatically to tape. That takes away a lot of the manual, human element. You don't want someone to have to come in and say 'oh I need to move this data' it should happen seamlessly."

Big Data

In the view of IBM’s Business Line Executive for Data Retention Infrastructures, Shawn Brume, video surveillance is witnessing the same influx of digital data that media and entertainment saw, seven years ago, which opens up opportunities for LTO: “It's huge data. Video surveillance - not counting body cameras which are growing at an unbelievably accelerated rate - produced just under 600 petabytes of data per day last year. If you are keeping half a percent you are storing 600 petabytes of data in perpetuity.”

He goes on to stress that the provenance of this data is, not surprisingly, very important for the security industry which also sits well with what LTO can offer: “I want to be able to say that I got it from camera A, and camera A went on device B, and when I archived it off it went on tape C. As tape is moveable and secure - 256-bit encryption - you are not just talking about being able to keep it for a long time – the thirty-year shelf life of tape – you are talking about secure data.” 

Alongside this, Brume claims that going down the LTO route is five times more reliable than many disk drives: “Why would you take the data that you are going to keep and keep it on something that is ten times more expensive and harder to retain for a long shelf-life?”

Questioned about the accessibility of the data held with LTO, Brume does admit that things are a little bit different from disk storage, for example: “This is archive data so you are not just going to be able to say well I need a timeline and I need to be able to go back and forth immediately. You can say I have the section of data that I want to review from X date and then bring those archives back up - with VMS providers like Genetec and Milestone having an archive capability - the data then becomes timeline accessible.”

Looking at things in the round, Brume concludes by saying that, although there may be a little bit of a thought process behind things with LTO, as all data is not immediately available, the strong upside is the reassurance that, ultimately, video surveillance footage is safe and retained for future use.


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