What Media and Entertainment Can’t Get from LTO Tape
Guest Blog by Ben Bonadies
Despite years of industry pundits hailing the format as dead, LTO tape lives on. To this day it remains a reliable backup and archive format for its low cost and longevity.
But what makes LTO so effective at storing large amounts of data is its compression capabilities. It is so important that it has even found its way onto the packaging of tape cartridges, which display capacity in both compressed and uncompressed formats. The difference between the two is staggering. Uncompressed, LTO 8 tapes typically offer around 12TB of capacity while compressed capacity jumps to around 30TB, an increase of 250%. Guess which one is written in larger size font?
Does compression even help when storing video?
Compression works well enough for some files—text documents, blocks of code, small images—but less well on larger, more robust ones. If you’ve ever tried to make a .zip file of your media folder, you know the process doesn’t buy you much extra space. That’s because video and audio media files, JPG images, and most other large unstructured files only shrink slightly in size when compressed.
This is especially true of video that has already been compressed, as in the case of H.264, a common compression codec for high-definition digital video. This format is widely adopted by the media and entertainment industry for everything from broadcast, online video, delivery, and more. It’s often the format video files end up in once they’re exported for final distribution. If your goal is the preservation of projects post-completion, compression won’t aid you much here.
There are specialized services that offer video compression, but those would have to be applied prior to ingest into tape. Furthermore, if a file can be compressed 50%, that would apply whether you were storing the data on tape, on disk on-premises, or in a public cloud. In my view, compression then becomes irrelevant.
The right media type depends on what you want to do with your content
For media & entertainment use cases, the space-saving advantage of the LTO format is null and void. Video files, especially high-resolution 4K footage, would take up just as much capacity on tape as it would on disk or in the cloud. The question for content owners, then, should not be which medium to store archival footage but rather what does the medium bring to your content? What do you want to accomplish with that content after it is archived, and how will your chosen storage medium help you achieve that?
The bulk of production work is still done on on-premises hardware, and that is unlikely to change in the near future. However, more workflows are increasingly revolving around the cloud as a hub for production activity. From a media asset manager (MAM) connected to the cloud, editors can call up clips on demand from anywhere in the world and even assemble rushes from within the MAM system. Stakeholders can review and make comments where the content lives without having to first pull it down.
Innovations like these are why MovieLabs, the nonprofit technology research lab jointly run by Paramount Pictures, Sony Entertainment, Universal Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, and Warner Bros. Entertainment foregrounded the importance of cloud storage in their 2020 report “The Evolution of Media Creation: A 10-Year Vision for the Future of Media Production, Post and Creative Technologies.”
Free your content with tape-to-cloud migration tools
The continued adoption of cloud storage as a preferred destination for media and entertainment content owners has led to the rise of tape migration tools. These products connect your system’s tape library to other areas of media storage including MAMs, disk-based storage, and edit systems and cloud object storage.
Wasabi’s recently published white paper with tape-to-cloud migration leader Marquis delves deeper into the world of tape-based storage and how media organizations are leveraging the cloud in greater capacity to archive their data with unprecedented scalability and security.
There can be no doubting LTO’s practicality for securely storing air-gapped backups and archives for long periods of time. The challenge for the customer is what they want their archived data to do for them.
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