The Importance of LTO Tape Cartridge Quality

Posted on 03-Mar-2012

Using damaged or worn out tape cartridges can be expensive. Lost data can be costly and in some cases impossible to recover. Worn out or damaged tape cartridges can carry debris that may be transferred to tape path elements such as roller guides and the read/write heads of tape drives. This debris can scratch the tape surface as well as the read/write head and can seriously damage the drive.

Once the tape drive is contaminated the debris can be transferred to the next cartridge and the next.  Thus, a single bad cartridge can impair tape drives and contaminate your perfectly good tape cartridges.  The longer it takes you to discover a bad cartridge, the more extensive the damage can be.  Like a virus, a bad cartridge ought to be quarantined before it has a chance to contaminate the rest of your system.

Failing cartridges need to be replaced and failing drives need to be serviced before they can cause serious damage.  Finding the point where a cartridge is just about to go bad can be problematic.  For one, the decline in the quality of a cartridge through its lifecycle is not linear. Throughout its usable life the performance is typically quite stable, but once a cartridge begins to wear the debris generated by the worn cartridge, it can be transferred to the tape drive. A contaminated tape drive wears both the tape surface and tape edges excessively, generating even more debris.  This avalanche effect rapidly decreases the cartridge quality. The trick is to retire that cartridge just before damage occurs.

The truly helpful statistical data required to determine the cartridge quality can be obtained quite easily from cartridges containing a cartridge memory (CM) chip. The CM chip contains a complete history of the cartridge, including all relevant quality statistics, including the number of bytes read/written, the number of loads, the age of the cartridge, and very detailed error statistics. The CM chip also identifies the cartridge manufacturer and any barcode serial number.

Many LTO failures and unnecessary expenditure can be avoided through the easy-to-use LTO VeriTape Cartridge Analyser. This device accesses the LTO cartridges CM chip to identify media that are approaching the end of their usable life or tape drives that require maintenance. The data from the CM allows the user to pinpoint problems or verify the cartridges fitness for use through a simple Evaluation Score.  The CM can also identify the tape drives that the cartridge has been loaded into and give them an Evaluation Score also. With this analysis it is possible to determine the cause of any system failure or, more importantly, potentially prevent system failure through early intervention. The statistical data contained in the CM can be accessed and the media quality assessed anywhere, whether the cartridge is in a data centre, in offsite storage, or at a remote data collection site.  Simply place the cartridge in the analyser for instant identification, evaluation and health score.

Monitor regularly to maximise safe usage and minimise potential harm or failure.

Connexion Point uses this device for its own in-house quality control and is able to offer these units for sale or weekly rental.  Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information should you feel this solution is appropriate for your business.

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