IBM builds Diamondback tape library for enterprise and cloud hyperscalers

Big Blue is active afresh in the archive-storing tape library business, with its Diamondback product for web-scale enterprises and hyperscalers, claimed to be the industry’s densest library.

IBM says it has 1.8x more petabytes per square foot compared to competitor tape storage and is specifically targeted at Google, Microsoft, AWS and Meta (Facebook). We’re told they “heavily rely on this technology to keep their customers’ information safe.” IBM hopes it can extend the tape library’s addressable market to a new category of enterprise data aggregators – the “new wave” enterprise hyperscalers.

A Diamondback frame.

IBM’s Scott Baker, VP and CMO for IBM Infrastructure, issued a statement saying: “The IBM Diamondback Tape Library provides critical protection against a variety of threats, helping minimize datacenter floor space requirements and which can reduce organizations’ carbon footprint. It’s part of an end-to-end data protection and security solution that IBM can deliver.”

It’s got all the traditional tape storage benefits of physical air-gapping, long-term storage of up to 30 years, lower carbon footprint than disk storage – we’re told high-density hard disk drives (HDD) consume 20 times more energy per year than the Diamondback tape storage library. It also has good streaming IO performance, multiple drives and robotic tape cartridge handling. 

IBM says it’s designed it to provide industry’s most dense tape storage. It comes as a frame (tall rack) the same floor width as an OCP rack, with a 5U top rack option,  and is designed to be used as a ultra-high-density stand-alone library or as part of a Redundant Array of independent Libraries (RAIL). You add another and independent frame to get more capacity. There are 1,584 cartridge slots in total, with up to 36 slots for cleaner and diagnostic cartridges, and swap space, enabling 1,548 active tape slots.

Diamondback supports the LTO format; LTO-9 tape drives with LTO-8 and LTO-9 tape media. Data and WORM formats are supported as is mixed media. There are plans to integrate all IBM tape formats in the future.

The maximum capacity per frame is 27.8PB uncompressed, 69.66PB compressed in 7.6 square feet of floor space. With up to 14 tape drives there is a 20.16TB per hour I/O rate.

The library can be shipped with media pre-installed and there is a 30-minute installation time from time on floor to power-up and auto-configuration. The product has a self-service design with <2 minute average CRU (Customer Replaceable Unit) parts replacement, finger-only screws and QR code guidance to assist service personnel.

IBM’s Spectrum Archive software product supports Diamondback and the company says the system is a quarter of the total cost of a public cloud archival service for equivalent capacity.

Competition beat

Quantum has its i6H Scalar library product for webscale enterprises and hyperscalers, and it has a Redundant Array of Independent Libraries (RAIL) architecture like Diamondback. Quantum has not publicly revealed i6H tape slot and drive counts. But the library is delivered as a fully assembled 48U rack which contains eight component chassis looking like Scalar i6 modules. 

We know a 6RU i6 module supports up to three full-height LTO tape drives and 100 storage slots, for up to 4.5PB (compressed) of storage per module. A rack of eight i6 chassis would then total 24 tape drives and 800 cartridge slots, and store 14.4PB uncompressed and 36PB of compressed data using LTO-9 tapes.

IBM’s Diamondback stores almost twice as much data as a fully populated rack of Scalar i6 chassis.

Spectra Logic has its Tfinity library for hyperscalers and the like. It scales out to 45 frames (large racks) with 55,990 cartridges, and supports the LTO-9 format, amongst others. That means 2.5EB of compressed data. Divided by 45 we arrive at 55.6PB per frame, which is less than Diamondback’s 69.66PB compressed data per frame.

The Diamond back tape library is generally available now. Check out IBM’s Diamondback web pages for more information.