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The business benefits of enterprise data governance and MDM

With seemingly overwhelming amounts of data coming from myriad sources, the need for effective enterprise data governance strategies is of paramount importance to many organizations.

Enterprise data governance has many facets and can often intersect with master data management (MDM) efforts. That convergence was on display at Informatica’s MDM 360 and Data Governance virtual summit hosted on March 19.

The enterprise cloud data management vendor, based in Redwood City, Calif., has been particularly active in recent months, hiring a new CEO in January and expanding the company’s product portfolio with updated governance, data catalog and analytics capabilities.

“We all want tomorrow’s data yesterday, to make a decision for today,” Informatica CEO Amit Walia said during the event’s opening keynote.

Informatica’s virtual conference was among the many similar events that tech vendors have held or are planning to substitute for in-person events canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

One notable tech conference producer, O’Reilly Media, sponsor of the Strata Data and AI conferences, among others, said March 24 it is closing its in-person conference business altogether because of the pandemic.

Amit Walia
Informatica CEO Amit Walia

How Hertz is mastering enterprise data governance and management

Meanwhile, with its global car rental operations, Hertz Corporation possesses a lot of data that it needs to collect and govern, for some 100 million customers and a fleet of nearly a million vehicles.

We all want tomorrow’s data yesterday, to make a decision for today.
Amit WaliaCEO, Informatica

Speaking at the virtual event, Richard Leaton, master data leader at Hertz, outlined the challenges his organization faces and the best practices for data governance and data management Hertz has used.

“The overall business objectives of MDM from an IT perspective, was a $1 billion transformation, changing our reservation system, rental system, sales engine and fleet management,” Leaton said. “If it had an electronic component to it, I think we changed it.”

As part of that effort Hertz needed to improve data quality and data governance, so there could be a single source of information for customer and fleet vehicle data.

Leaton noted that when he joined Hertz in 2017, the company had multiple sets of customer and vehicle master data sources and 30 years of mainframe-based proprietary databases. The systems were highly customized, not easy to upgrade and not uniformly governed.

Leaton emphasized that Hertz started with a process to engage all the right constituencies in the business.

“Data is an asset,” he said. “Data can have real hard number committed to it and when you have hard numbers associated with a data program, you’re going to have people who are helping you to make that data program successful.”

The technology should be the easy part of data transformation, Leaton said. The business processes, the buy-in and making sure the right data quality is present become the hard parts.

Enterprise data governance is the key to master data management

The first step for enabling MDM is to start with data governance, according to Leaton.

“If you don’t have your terms defined, you can’t build an MDM suite effectively,” Leaton said. “We were partway along the governance journey and started into MDM the first time and that’s where we ran into trouble.”

Hertz IT managers thought that they had defined enterprise data governance terms, but they came to realize that the terms were not agreed upon across the multiple platform of the business.

Securing executive buy-in for defining data governance across an organization is critical, Leaton said. He also emphasized that financial metrics and business value needs to be associated with the effort. Business leaders need to understand what the business will get out of a data governance effort. It’s not enough just to want to have good data, leaders need to define terms.

The defined terms for data governance can outline how the effort will help ensure regulatory compliance and how it will help to grow the business because all the systems talk to each other and there is better operational efficiency.

Data governance at Invesco

Rich Turnock, global head of enterprise data services at financial services firm Invesco, based in Louisville, Ky., also has a structured process for data governance.

The Invesco enterprise data platform incorporates three core steps for data governance and quality. In the planning phase, much like at Hertz, Turnock said the organization needs to define and document data requests in terms of business outcomes.

In the capture phase of data, enterprise data governance policies for mapping and cataloging data are important. For data delivery, Turnock said data output should be delivered in the agreed upon format and with preferred mechanisms that were defined up front in the planning process.

Using data to improve healthcare at Highmark Health

Using enterprise data governance and MDM best practices isn’t just about improving business outcomes. Those best practices can also improve healthcare.

Also at the Informatica virtual event, Anthony Roscoe, director of enterprise data governance at Highmark Health in Pittsburgh, explained how his organization embraced data governance and MDM. The key challenge for Highmark Health is that the organization had grown via acquisitions and ended up with multiple disparate data systems.

Operational integration of data is also part of Highmark Health’s data journey, making sure that clinical data from health systems can be correlated with health plans. It’s an approach that Roscoe said can help to streamline care decisions between the health insurance and care delivery portions of Highmark Health’s business.

The overriding goal of Highmark Health’s enterprise data platform is to take all the individual parts, find where the organization needs to gather data from so it can be organized, and ultimately govern the data so that appropriate access is in place.

“Mastering the data so that we speak a common language across the entire enterprise is key,” Roscoe said. “Speaking from the same language can deliver accurate data statements and reports and other metrics across the different business units.”

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For Sale – 4TB Red Pro | SOLD: 2 x 2TB WD Red HDDs, 8TB Red

Are you putting up any more of these reds in the coming days?

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For Sale – 4TB Red Pro | 2 x 2TB WD Red HDDs | SOLD: 8TB Red

Are you putting up any more of these reds in the coming days?

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PS4 News

Bedrock is coming to PlayStation 4! “Kelsey”, you gasp in horror, “you’ve given away the whole article in the first sentence”. Don’t worry, beloved reader of Minecraft.net, there is always more – and I get paid by the word! Wait, I don’t?

“So how is this different from the version of Minecraft I can already play on my PS4?” The difference is that the Bedrock version of Minecraft is the unified version of the game that offers the same experience across all consoles. All that glorious, unified code means that you’ll be playing the same game as your pals on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows 10, and mobile! So, yes – that means you get cross-play between those different consoles (once you’re running the most recent update). Not just that, PS4 players now also have access to the in-game store – a source for worlds, skins, mini-games, and mash up packs! So you’re going to have not just a better Minecraft experience than ever before, but more Minecraft than ever. 

“What if I already own Minecraft on PS4, do I need to buy the game again to get the Bedrock version?” – to which I say, you have a lot of questions and this is an article, not a FAQ! But, more to the point, you can get the new version of the game free of charge. The next time you start Minecraft, the new update will install automatically.

If you have any other questions about the update, please check out this helpful FAQ

So with that, we welcome the newest addition to the Bedrock family with a hurrah! Just look out for a certain update that we can’t stop buzzing about that will roll out this week. Welcome to the Overworld, PS4 players!

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Author: Microsoft News Center

New telephony controls coming to Microsoft Teams admin center

Microsoft will add several telephony controls to the Microsoft Teams admin center in the coming months, a significant move in the vendor’s campaign to retire Skype for Business Online by mid-2021.

Admins will be able to build, test and manage custom dial plans through the Teams portal. Additionally, organizations that use Microsoft Calling Plan will be able to create and assign phone numbers and designate emergency addresses for users.

Currently, admins can only perform those tasks in Teams through the legacy admin center for Skype for Business Online. Microsoft has been gradually moving controls to the Teams admin center, with telephony controls among the last to switch over.

Microsoft plans to begin adding the new telephony controls to the Teams admin center in November, according to the vendor’s Office 365 Roadmap webpage. The company will also introduce some advanced features it didn’t support in Skype for Business Online, a cloud-based app within Office 365.

The update will let admins configure what’s known as dynamic emergency calling. The feature — supported only in the on-premises version of Skype for Business — automatically detects a user’s location when they place a 911 call. It then transmits that information to emergency officials.

The admin center for Skype for Business Online is “fairly rudimentary,” said Tom Arbuthnot, principal solutions architect at Modality Systems, a Microsoft-focused systems integrator. The new console for Teams provides advancements like the ability to sort and filter users and phone numbers.

“All of these little features add up to making a more friendly voice platform for an administrator,” Arbuthnot said. “They are getting closer and closer to everything being administered in the Teams admin center.”

Microsoft Teams still missing advanced calling controls, features

The superior design of the admin center notwithstanding, Teams still lacks crucial tools for organizations too large to use the management console.

For those enterprises, Teams PowerShell is the go-to tool for auto-configuring settings on a large scale using code-based commands. However, PowerShell cannot do everything that the Teams admin center can do. Microsoft has also yet to release APIs that would allow a third-party consultant to help manage a Fortune 500 company’s transition to Teams calling.

“When you’re up to hundreds of thousands of seats, you don’t really want to be going to an admin center and manually administrating,” Arbuthnot said. “The PowerShell and APIs tend to lag a little bit.”

A lack of parity between the telephony features of Skype for Business and Teams had been one of the biggest roadblocks preventing organizations from fully transitioning from the old to the new platform.

But at this point, Teams should be suitable for everyone except those with the most complex needs, such as receptionists, Arbuthnot said.

Other features that Microsoft is planning include compliance call recording, virtual desktop infrastructure support and contact center integrations.

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‘Microsoft the Musical’ features summer interns in a singing, dancing romp across tech giant’s campus

Well, the interns at Microsoft sure had fun this summer.

While there may be a documentary coming to Netflix that dives deep into what makes Bill Gates tick, the release of “Microsoft the Musical” on YouTube on Friday clearly shows what makes heels click at the software giant he co-founded.

The 8-minute number, which took us about that much time to convince ourselves it was in fact a real thing, features singing and dancing software engineers and data scientists clad in primary-colored clothing. The whole thing is the work of 150 people, including interns and employees.

A description for the video on YouTube is written by Liam McGregor, a data science intern credited with directing, producing and helping to write the musical.

“‘Microsoft the Musical’ was dreamt up and led by interns spending the summer of 2019 at Microsoft,” McGregor wrote. “This Tony Awards-style musical theater opening number is just one of many passion projects that came to life because we were encouraged to bring our whole selves to work. And that’s what we did: 150 people came in on mornings, weekends, and nights to create this outside of (and in addition to) their day jobs.”

After opening with a nod to Gates, cast members dance across the company’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters campus and throughout buildings. A whole host of company accomplishments and product names are dropped throughout — Windows, Office, PowerPoint, Surface, Xbox, HoloLens, Minecraft, Azure … even Clippy gets a mention. And the lyrics, posted in full here, also manage to poke some fun (sorry, Windows Phone):

It’s all happening here…
The standard for your office and your home
All happening here
All around the world our products are well-known!
Except for when we tried to make a phone!

“It’s all happening here,” is the constant refrain from the chorus. And while it sure does appear that being an intern at Microsoft affords young people the chance to work on some cutting-edge stuff, a break in the music does lay things on a little thick, as two characters are shown chatting in a company cafeteria.

“How is it that everyone here does so much,” a woman asks her co-worker at the 5:25 mark of the video.

“I know. I don’t get it. Maybe there’s something in the water,” the man replies.

“May I please have a latte and … an extra shot of whatever ingredient it is that makes people here so successful?” the woman says as she orders a beverage.

Alas, there is no special ingredient, because everyone brings their own! Back to the singing and dancing!

(YouTube screen grab via Microsoft the Musical)

“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more,” McGregor wrote in his director’s note. “We hope that this speaks to every person who dreams of being part of something big — and especially to those who’ve been wrongly told they can’t be. At some point, we were all in your shoes. You CAN, you SHOULD, and you WILL.”

Here’s a list of credits for those involved in the production, as it shows up on YouTube — along with their titles for jobs they held at Microsoft in the summer of 2019:

  • Produced and Directed by … Liam McGregor (data scientist intern)
  • Written by … Liam McGregor (data scientist intern) and Trip Master (explorer intern)
  • Executive Produced by … Diego Rejtman (GM, global university recruiting) and Sacha Nunn (culture program manager)
  • Choreographed and Co-Directed by … Swetha Prabakaran (explorer intern)
  • Protagonists (in order of appearance) … Ryan Hecht (program manager intern), Leslie Richardson (program manager), Alyssa Raqueno (explorer intern)
  • Bill Gates, the idea … Eleanor Lewis (software engineer intern)
  • Composed by … Joshua Yang (explorer intern), Trip Master (explorer intern), Liam McGregor (data scientist intern)
  • Orchestrated and Conducted by … Peter Yang (software engineer intern)
  • Director of Photography … Stephen Hitchcock (software engineer)
  • Sr. Production Manager … Morgan Dukes (marketing intern)
  • Associate Cinematographer and AD … Rishi Raj (software engineer)
  • Assistant Choreographer and AD … Lizzy Lee

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Author: Microsoft News Center

Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI going hard after Salesforce

Microsoft and Salesforce are attacking each other again. Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI tools are coming that will beef up sales, marketing and — most of all — service and support, unveiled the day after Salesforce announced Quip Slides, a PowerPoint competitor.

Salesforce appears to be annexing Microsoft’s business-productivity territory, while Microsoft is rolling its forces deeper into Salesforce’s CRM domain by more tightly connecting Teams collaboration with its CRM suite, freshened up with new AI capabilities.

“You’ve got Salesforce announcing Quip Slides, and you’ve got Microsoft doing a whole bunch of integration between Teams and Dynamics … who’s going after whose market?” said Alan Lepofsky, analyst at Constellation Research.

In a media briefing ahead of its Ignite user conference, the tech giant took some direct shots at rival Salesforce in introducing Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI tools that buttress CRM processes. Of particular note was Dynamics 365 AI for Customer Service, which adds out-of-the-box virtual agents.

Assistive AI for contact centers

Who’s going after whose market?
Alan Lepofskyanalyst, Constellation Research

Virtual agents can take several forms, two of which include chatbots that do the talking on behalf of humans, or assistive bots that prompt humans with suggested answers for engaging live with customers either on voice or text channels.

New Microsoft bots, built on Azure Cognitive Services, won’t require the code-intensive development or consultant services that other vendors’ CRM tools do, claimed Alysa Taylor, Microsoft corporate vice president of business applications and global industry. She singled out Salesforce as a CRM competitor in her comments.

“Many vendors offer [virtual agents] in a way that is very cumbersome for organizations to adopt,” Taylor said. “It requires a large services engagement; Salesforce partners with IBM Watson to be able to deliver this.”

Either way, the bots will require training. Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI-powered bots can be trained by call center managers, asserted Navrina Singh, Microsoft AI principal product lead, during a demo.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s taking on Salesforce with new CRM AI tools

The bots can tap into phone log transcriptions, email and other contact center data stores to shape answers to customer problems and take some of the workload off of overburdened contact center agents, Singh said.

The virtual agent introductions were significant enough that Microsoft brought out CEO Satya Nadella for a cameo with Singh during the briefing.

“The thing that’s most exciting to me,” Nadella said, “… is that [Microsoft] can make every company out there an AI-first company. They already have customers, they already have data. If you can democratize the use of AI tools, every company can harness the power of AI.”

Other Dynamics 365 AI tools for CRM

Sales and marketing staffs get their own Dynamics 365 AI infusion, too.

Microsoft brings Dynamics 365 AI for Sales in line with Salesforce Einstein tools that use AI to prioritize lead pipelines and sales-team performance management.

Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI for Market Insights plumbs marketing, social media and other customer engagement data to improve customer relations and “engage in relevant conversations and respond faster to trends,” Taylor wrote in a blog post announcing the new system.

While the Microsoft moves appear effective, industry observers questioned whether they can Microsoft make an impression in Salesforce’s massive market footprint, even if they are easier to use, more economical and more intuitive than Salesforce’s.

Lepofsky said he isn’t sure, because of the sheer numbers. The 150,000-strong Dreamforce user conference is at the same time as Ignite, and the latter will likely draw only about a sixth of the Dreamforce crowd. And Salesforce likely won’t be resting on its AI credentials either.

“I think you can speculate that Salesforce will also be talking about AI improvements at Dreamforce, so perhaps it’s not that differentiating for Dynamics,” Lepofsky said.

While Microsoft announced no release date for its AI tools, a preview site will go online this fall, Singh said.

Coinhive malware infects tens of thousands of MikroTik routers

Poor patching practices by vendors and users are once again coming back to bite users around the world, as a researcher discovered a cryptominer being spread to unpatched MikroTik routers.

The Coinhive malware was first found spreading through routers in Brazil. Simon Kenin, security researcher for Trustwave, based in Chicago, discovered the Coinhive malware infection originating from Brazil and first assumed it was a more common website compromise attack to inject the cryptomining code. But more digging revealed the infection was spreading through MikroTik routers.

Kenin said malicious actors were exploiting a vulnerability in the routers that MikroTik had patched in April — just one day after the flaw was first discovered.

“The exploit targets Winbox and allows the attacker to read files from the device … but the bottom line is that using this exploit you can get unauthenticated remote admin access to any vulnerable MikroTik router,” Kenin wrote in his analysis. “Initial investigation indicates that instead of running a malicious executable on the router itself, which is how the exploit was being used when it was first discovered, the attacker used the device’s functionality in order to inject the CoinHive script into every web page that a user visited.”

Mounir Hahad, head of Juniper Threat Labs at Juniper Networks, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., noted that MicroTik has deployed approximately 1.7 million units around the world — “mostly in Brazil, China, Russia and Indonesia” — and explained why the victims may not have patched.

“Most routers, unfortunately, lack the ability to auto-update, and very few users, especially home users, know how or when to patch the firmware on their router,” Hahad wrote via email. “One of the biggest failures of security vendors that provide small-office [or] home-office routers is not including an auto-update feature by default, regardless of the technical difficulties lying around potentially taking the router offline during the update process.”

Chris Olson, founder and CEO of The Media Trust, based in McLean, Va., agreed infections like the Coinhive malware could prey on poor patching habits.

“The average user will likely plug in their router and forget about it until something goes awry,” Olson wrote via email. “Routers are like electricity and water: Unless service is disrupted, they receive little to no attention. Because they are often ignored, they make the perfect attack vector.”

Coinhive malware infections

Routers are like electricity and water: Unless service is disrupted, they receive little to no attention. Because they are often ignored, they make the perfect attack vector.
Chris OlsonCEO, The Media Trust

Kenin said the Coinhive malware creates and injects a custom error page for every webpage visited by a user through an infected router.

“So if a user receives an error page of any kind while web browsing, they will get this custom error page which will mine CoinHive for the attacker,” Kenin wrote. “The backend Apache server is connected to the router as well, and somewhere along the way there was an error and it was displayed to me, miner included. What this means is that this also impacts users who are not directly connected to the infected router’s network, but also users who visit websites behind these infected routers. In other words, the attack works in both directions.”

Experts noted that this method of spreading the Coinhive malware to every site visited was unusual.

Sean Newman, director product management at Corero Network Security, based in Marlborough, Mass., said the Coinhive malware “is not something we’ve specifically seen before.”

“However, it does combine well-known exploit mechanisms, though in a novel way that is well-suited to the practice of cryptojacking,” Newman wrote via email. And, in this case, we’re not talking about cheap IoT devices with vulnerabilities which are never addressed by the vendor. In this case, the routers were exploited to deliver a cryptomining payload, but the same approach could have just as easily leveraged them for other objectives.”

Olson agreed this method of spreading malware would be more common with the creation of a botnet, and Hahad noted the Coinhive malware might not be the most efficient way of cryptomining.

“Every browser tends to have several open tabs that connect to several sites at once. Duplicating the Coinhive mining script so heavily would bring any computer to its knees in seconds, defeating the very purpose of the attack,” Hahad wrote. “Once tweaked to only inject error pages, the issue was mitigated. But, again, the effectiveness is now dramatically reduced, because people do not hit error pages very often. In my opinion, this shows it is the work of a script kiddie with not much hacking experience.”

Visit Xbox at San Diego Comic-Con 2018 – Xbox Wire

San Diego Comic-Con, the world’s largest comic and pop-culture festival, is coming soon and Xbox is bringing the fun with exclusive gear, panels, celebrity guests, and more! See below for details on everything Xbox at SDCC and join the fun from California or from the comfort of your own couch.

Xbox Booth (San Diego Comic-Con badge required)
Hall A, Booth #100

For the first time ever, Xbox will have exclusive gear available at SDCC! Stop by to pick up exclusive clothing and items from Xbox and your favorite games and then get them customized on the spot with your Gamertag. See some of the items available here.

Visit us on Thursday, July 19 and Saturday, July 21 for signing sessions with some of your favorite developers and designers, but get there early: only the first 100 people to receive passes will be eligible!

Signings (San Diego Comic-Con badge required):

  • Brendan Greene (“PlayerUnknown”), Creative Director, PUBG Corp – Thursday, July 19 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. PDT
  • Joe Neate, Executive Producer, and Mike Chapman, Design Director, Sea of Thieves – Saturday, July 21 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. PDT

Xbox Gear Comic-Con Sweepstakes

Can’t make it to the booth to pick up the exclusive gear? Retweet @Xbox to potentially win an Xbox Gear Comic-Con prize pack! Four winners will receive a collection of exclusive Xbox Gear, and one grand prize winner will receive the gear and an Xbox One X.

Follow @Xbox or @XboxCanada on Twitter and retweet the following tweet when it goes live at the start of San Diego Comic-Con: “RT and follow for a chance to win exclusive #XboxSDCC #XboxGear! NoPurchNec. Ends 7/22/18. #Sweepstakes Rules: bit.ly/2KV2DQ1.” You have until July 22 to enter. Click through for the Official Rules.

Sea of Thieves Panel (San Diego Comic-Con badge required)
Room 5AB, Saturday, July 21 from 1:30pm – 2:30pm PDT

Special guest and Sea of Thieves fan Freddie Prinze Jr. (“Star Wars Rebels,” “24,” “Scooby Doo,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer”) joins the Rare crew, Joe Neate, Mike Chapman, and Peter Hentze as they discuss the lore and expanded universe of Sea of Thieves. Attendees will also receive a limited-edition Sea of Thieves comic and time-limited exclusive in-game DLC!

Xbox Live Sessions

If you’re not in San Diego but still want to follow along with the fun, we’re hosting two action-packed Xbox Live Sessions that you won’t want to miss.

  • PUBG featuring Brendan “PlayerUnknown” Greene: On Thursday, July 19 at 5:00 p.m. PDT, PUBG Creative Director Brendan Greene (@PLAYERUNKNOWN) and Microsoft Executive Producer Nico Bihary (@nico_bihary) will join Rukari Austin (@rukizzelrukizzel) to get their loot on in PUBG’s Miramar map live from inside of a PUBG Bus created by West Coast Customs. That’s right – Xbox, PUBG Corp., and West Coast Customs have teamed up to create a one-of-a-kind, tricked out PUBG Bus which will be home to the livestream and available to see in-person at The Experience at Comic-Con.
  • Sea of Thieves with Freddie Prinze Jr.: On Saturday, July 21 at 5:00 p.m. PDT, Sea of Thieves fan Freddie Prinze Jr. (@RealFPJr) will sail the high seas with members of the Rare team and Major Nelson in an episode of Xbox Live Sessions that’s sure to test the sea legs of the seasoned actor. Fans at home can tune in and watch on http://mixer.com/Xbox  and http://twitch.tv/Xbox.

Xbox at “The Experience at Comic-Con”

SDCC map

Head over to Petco Park where you can play Xbox One games, earn free swag, and win awesome prizes! No Comic-Con badge required.

  • Visit the Samsung truck at The Experience at Comic-Con, located in the Lexus Lot at Petco Park. Climb aboard the truck to compete in Forza Motorsport 7 on Xbox One X via Samsung’s 2018 QLED TVs. More information can be found here.
  • Come visit the first stop of the Xbox One Summer of PUBG tour. Win prizes, check out the PUBG Bus, and stick around for the Xbox Live Sessions! More information can be found here

For all the SDCC details, visit the Xbox SDCC website. For more Xbox news, follow @Xbox on Twitter and stay tuned to Xbox Wire. See you at San Diego Comic-Con!

Tape storage capacity plays important role as data increases

As the amount of new data created is set to hit the multiple-zettabyte level in the coming years, where will we store it all?

With the release of LTO-8 and recent reports that total tape storage capacity continues to increase dramatically, tape is a strong option for long-term retention. But even tape advocates say it’s going to take a comprehensive approach to storage that includes other forms of media to handle the data influx.

Tape making a comeback?

The annual tape media shipment report released earlier this year by the LTO Program showed that 108,000 petabytes (PB) of compressed tape storage capacity shipped in 2017, an increase of 12.9% over 2016. The total marks a fivefold increase over the capacity of just over 20,000 PB shipped in 2008.

LTO-8, which launched in late 2017, provides 30 TB compressed capacity and 12 TB native, doubling the capacities of LTO-7, which came out in 2015. The 12 TB of uncompressed capacity is equivalent to 8,000 movies, 2,880,000 songs or 7,140,000 photos, according to vendor Spectra Logic.

“We hope now [with] LTO-8 another increase in capacity [next year],” said Laura Loredo, worldwide marketing product manager at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, one of the LTO Program’s Technology Provider Companies along with IBM and Quantum.

The media, entertainment and science industries have been traditionally strong users of tape for long-term retention. Loredo pointed to more recent uses that have gained traction. Video surveillance is getting digitized more often and kept for longer, and there is more of it in general. The medical industry is a similar story, as records get digitized and kept for long periods of time.

The ability to create digital content at high volumes is becoming less expensive, and with higher resolutions, those capacities are increasing, Quantum product and solution marketing manager Kieran Maloney said. So tape becomes a cost-efficient play for retaining that data.

Tape also brings security benefits. Because it is naturally isolated from a network, tape provides a true “air gap” for protection against ransomware, said Carlos Sandoval Castro, LTO marketing representative at IBM. If ransomware is in a system, it can’t touch a tape that’s not connected, making tapes an avenue for disaster recovery in the event of a successful attack.

“We are seeing customers come back to tape,” Loredo said.

LTO roadmap
The LTO roadmap projects out to the 12th generation.

Tape sees clear runway ahead

“There’s a lot of runway ahead for tape … much more so than either flash or disk,” said analyst Jon Toigo, managing partner at Toigo Partners International and chairman of the Data Management Institute.

Even public cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure are big consumers of tape, Toigo said. Those cloud providers can use the large tape storage capacity for their data backup.

Tape is an absolute requirement for storing the massive amounts of data coming down the pike.
Jon Toigochairman, Data Management Institute

However, with IDC forecasting dozens of zettabytes in need of storage by 2025, flash and disk will remain important. One zettabyte is equal to approximately 1 billion TBs.

“You’re going to need all of the above,” Toigo said. “Tape is an absolute requirement for storing the massive amounts of data coming down the pike.”

It’s not necessarily about flash versus tape or other comparisons, it’s about how best to use flash, disk, tape and the cloud, said Rich Gadomski, vice president of marketing at Fujifilm and a member of the Tape Storage Council.

The cloud, for example, is helpful for certain aspects, such as offsite storage, but it shouldn’t be the medium for everything.

“A multifaceted data protection approach continues to thrive,” Gadomski said.

There’s still a lot of education needed around tape, vendors said. So often the conversation pits technologies against each other, Maloney said, but instead the question should be “Which technology works best for which use?” In the end, tape can fit into a tiered storage model that also includes flash, disk and the cloud.

In a similar way, the Tape Storage Council’s annual “State of the Tape Industry” report, released in March, acknowledged that organizations are often best served by using multiple media for storage.

“Tape shares the data center storage hierarchy with SSDs and HDDs and the ideal storage solution optimizes the strengths of each,” the report said. “However, the role tape serves in today’s modern data centers is quickly expanding into new markets because compelling technological advancements have made tape the most economical, highest capacity and most reliable storage medium available.”

LTO-8 uses tunnel magnetoresistance (TMR) for tape heads, a switch from the previous giant magnetoresistance (GMR). TMR provides a more defined electrical signal than GMR, allowing bits to be written to smaller areas of LTO media. LTO-8 also uses barium ferrite instead of metal particles for tape storage capacity improvement. With the inclusion of TMR technology and barium ferrite, LTO-8 is only backward compatible to one generation. Historically, LTO had been able to read back two generations and write back to one generation.

“Tape continues to evolve — the technology certainly isn’t standing still,” Gadomski said.

Tape also has a clearly defined roadmap, with LTO projected out to the 12th generation. Each successive generation after LTO-8 projects double the capacity of the previous version. As a result, LTO-12 would offer 480 TB compressed tape storage capacity and 192 TB native. It typically takes between two and three years for a new LTO generation to launch.

In addition, IBM and Sony have said they developed technology for the highest recording areal density for tape storage media, resulting in approximately 330 TB uncompressed per cartridge.

On the lookout for advances in storage

Spectra Logic, in its “Digital Data Storage Outlook 2018” report released in June, said it projects much of the future zettabytes of data will “never be stored or will be retained for only a brief time.”

“Spectra’s projections show a small likelihood of a constrained supply of storage to meet the needs of the digital universe through 2026,” the report said. “Expected advances in storage technologies, however, need to occur during this timeframe. Lack of advances in a particular technology, such as magnetic disk, will necessitate greater use of other storage mediums such as flash and tape.”

While the report claims the use of tape for secondary storage has declined with backup moving to disk, the need for tape storage capacity in the long-term archive market is growing.

“Tape technology is well-suited for this space as it provides the benefits of low environmental footprint on both floor space and power; a high level of data integrity over a long period of time; and a much lower cost per gigabyte of storage than all other storage mediums,” the report said.