OWC Mercury Pro LTO Introduced – Easy Archiving to 12TB LTO-8 Tapes

October 23rd, 2020 icon / message-square 10
OWC Mercury Pro LTO Introduced - Easy Archiving to 12TB LTO-8 Tapes

OWC introduced the Mercury Pro LTO that should provide a cost-effective and easy-to-use archiving to 12TB LTO-8 tapes. The device offers an option to mount an additional HDD or SSD, write speeds of up to 360MB/s (900MB/s compressed), Thunderbolt 3 connectors, and a relatively compact housing. It is available now from $4,499.

Most filmmakers who have been in the business for some time have had to deal with archiving older projects. The problem with our industry is that the amount of data can get massive with higher resolutions and bitrates.

LTO tapes have been around for a while and when it comes to long-term storage, with the estimated tape longevity of 30 years, they represent one of the best solutions. OWC recently introduced a Mercury Pro LTO – let’s take a short look at its features and specs.

OWC Mercury Pro LTO

LTO technology was first introduced in 2000. Since then, there have been numerous generations of LTO tapes and the capacity per tape has been growing with each generation. The Mercury Pro LTO includes the IBM-LTO-8 Ultrium Drive that can read the latest LTO-8 tapes with 12TB (or 30TB compressed) storage capacity, but it can also handle the previous generation 6TB LTO-7 tapes and should even be able to use future release LTO-9 drives as well.

Mercury Pro LTO. Source: OWC

The advantage of using Linear Tape-Open (LTO) tapes formatted with the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) is that the tape can be accessed on the computer just like a hard drive or SSD. Files appear in folders and moving them to and retrieving them from tape is easy. The Mercury Pro LTO includes a myLTO app that can mount, format, and backup to an LTO tape and hard drive simultaneously.

According to OWC, the LTO platform provides the lowest cost storage format – as low as $0.02/GB and significantly less than online storage (when it comes to high volumes of data). The Mercury Pro LTO supports AES 256-bit encryption and WORM cartridges required by legal/regulatory record keeping. It features up to 360MB/s native (up to 900MB/s compressed) transfer rates.

Mercury Pro LTO. Source: OWC

The Mercury Pro LTO device has a compact form factor with built-in handles and a configurable drive bay. Users can add an optional 2.5/3.5-inch HDD or SSD for up to 16TB “staging” capacity.

In terms of connectivity, there are two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports (15W and 85W) and a DisplayPort 1.4 for connecting a display, as well as an RJ-45 LAN service port. The 85W USB-C port can also charge compatible devices.

Price and Availability

The Mercury Pro LTO is available to order now for $4,499 and includes the myLTO software, one 12TB LTO-8 tape, a Thunderbolt cable and a cleaning cartridge. Additional solutions for up to 16TB are also available. The prices of LTO-8 tapes start at around $120.

Do you archive your data to LTO tapes? What is your go-to workflow for that? Let us know in the comment section underneath the article.

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Mel Feliciano
Mel Feliciano
Member
October 30th, 2020

This is $500 less than similar product from mLogic.

Jeremy Wilker
Member
October 29th, 2020

If companies are trying to reach new markets (buyers) with their LTO solutions there needs to be drastic reduction in LTO drive pricing. I do not have any pricing issues with the tapes themselves, but *thousands* of dollars for a drive? When DVD burners first arrived, they were super expensive, too, but the prices were quickly brought down to affordable levels and soon every computer could have one built-in from the factory. LTO is a proven and safe backup system that’s been around for *many* years, yet pricing on drives is still crazy high. Us filmmakers generally understand the need for long-term archival backup, yet the industry is keeping us relying on spinning disks due to financial barriers. Make the drives half the price and watch adoption grow. Get it even lower and everybody will buy one (if they are serious about archival).

Daniel Laruso
Daniel Laruso
Member
October 23rd, 2020

Can someone explain the compressed workflow on this system? It says 30TB compressed storage. Does this still work like a regular file system?

Andrew Adkins
Andrew Adkins
Member
October 23rd, 2020
Reply to  Daniel Laruso

Full disclosure, I work for MagStor.com, we sell a competing product.

I would not expect to get the full 30TB compressed storage. To my knowledge, this is an artifact from a marketing campaign that the tape market just can’t seem to shake. The drive does however automatically compress data as it is written to the tape, and its head checks the data after it has written it to make sure it was written correctly. This is all done by the drive itself and you do not need to configure this, though software will usually do an extra check. The issue is that many types of data are already very compressed, so depending on the kind of data you are dealing with, expecting 2.5/1 compression is a bit much. That being said, the compression does work and you don’t need to manage it, and tape is already extremely affordable even if there was zero compression.

The file system can either be TAR or LTFS. LTFS is the open standard that works somewhat similarly to a flash drive, but not really as tape needs to be accessed linearly, meaning fairly long seek times, so it is good to have software to assist with reading and writing to tape. TAR is used more for incremental backups I believe. They both have their uses, it just depends on what software you are using and your use case. Essentially, expect to use some sort of file management software with your drive.

Markus Magnon
Markus Magnon
Guest
October 23rd, 2020

What am I missing?
– I can buy 1 TB SSD for 100 Bucks.
– An SSD RAID case starts at 200 Bucks.

For 4000 Bucks I can build a 32 TB SSD Raid.
Why should I choose ape instead of SSD?

Mark G.
Mark G.
Guest
October 23rd, 2020
Reply to  Markus Magnon

You are comparing removable tapes with SSDs. You only use tape for archive as the random read/write is nowhere near as good as the solution you were talking about. You can get a 12TB tape for around $100 with a shelf life of around 30yrs. SSD shelf life is, well, unknown for time periods that long. As you probably know, with 4k and 8k RAW, even a small project can be several TB. Even a small company with a few projects at a time can run into storage issues quickly. Being able to have a good archival format is important if you want/need to keep source files for any substantial period of time.

Last edited 1 month ago by Mark G.
SiO2
SiO2
Guest
October 23rd, 2020
Reply to  Markus Magnon

Imaging you have to backup a lot of data. Maybe not even at once, but on a regular basis.
And maybe you have to archive copies in a safe, due to legal reasons.
Those use cases exist. Not in everyone’s home, but in business environments.

Now, let’s assume a total volume of 250 TB. In SSDs, that’s worth ~30k. What a waste of money and potential because they sit in a shelf 99.9% of their life.

A tape drive plus 20 tapes will cost you less than 7k…

Also due to their simplicity, tape cartridges have a very long shelf life. If the complicated tape drive breaks, no worries. A RAID is not only a single point of failure, it is also NOT A BACKUP.

Tapes are designed for a very special use case and are still excellent for this particular long-term storage environment. I suggest reading something about tiered storage.

Raw Shooter
Raw Shooter
Guest
October 23rd, 2020
Reply to  SiO2

Not only that, you can send tapes to different parts of the country. You wouldn’t build multiple 250TB RAIDs and put the drives in 3-4 places. We do on site, offsite, and far offsite. And with compression you can get up to 30TB per tape. We get about 30% compression.

Our RAID enclosures house 16 drives.

They’re a lot more expensive than your 4-5 drive example at $200 and they’re 132TB each.

The controller alone for each box is $1000. We’re talking enterprise level stuff here. Higher end businesses.

Plus you can have dated backups.

We do daily, daily for two weeks, monthly and yearly.

So we have at least 20 backups of our RAID arrays in case something gets deleted or corrupted and we need to restore.

Last edited 1 month ago by Raw Shooter
High1ander
High1ander
Guest
October 24th, 2020
Reply to  Markus Magnon

Tape like LTO is an “Archival format”.

SSD is “temporary format”, even mechanical HDDs are “temporary format”. They can last 1-5 years, even more, but they aren’t designed for “long term storage”. SSDs and Mechanical discs both can lose their charge (information) after a couple of years, gradually the magnetic charge will disappear on an HDD (and so goes the information). Tape is what banks, governments, etc. store all their old critical data on for “long term storage” since Tapes are meant to be more cost effective and “safer” (less information lost per year) than regular HDDs.

Basically LTOs generally becomes more cost effective (huge initial cost) the more you store, so today it is probably better to get LTOs if you create around 10-20+ TB a year, and want to have it reasonable backed up (i.e. at least 2 different locations). Otherwise you have to continuously back up onto HDD’s, HDD’s that should be considered “dead” after 5-7 years even if just unused on a shelf.

CRD
CRD
Member
October 29th, 2020
Reply to  Markus Magnon

There is a tired phrase: raid is not a backup solution.
Nobody said this product was for everyone.

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