IBM Helps Greece’s AlphaTV Network Tame Big Data With Tape Storage

IBM announced that AlphaTV, a television network in Greece, has overhauled its storage infrastructure with IBM high-performance, high-capacity tape solutions for greater efficiencies, faster access to video and the ability to store more video in dramatically less space.

IBM helped transform the network’s tape storage system, shrinking the size of its archive. The move to IBM technology has helped the network shrink its archive from 1,507 to just 388 square feet, representing dramatic systems and energy-cost savings.

AlphaTV has been broadcasting since 1996, creating and storing all forms of video entertainment, from soap operas and documentaries, to movies and sporting events, and creating a vast video archive along the way. Initially, AlphaTV archived its programming on Sony Beta SP format video cassettes that stored up to 90 minutes of content. Not long after, in need of storage that offered greater density, it turned to DVCPRO format videos that stored up to 120 minutes. But even that format was not allowing the network to keep pace with its ballooning archive, a storage infrastructure that by 2011 spanned more than 1,507 square feet.

To get greater control of this infrastructure, AlphaTV turned to IBM and its Linear Tape File System (LTFS) and IBM Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Ultrium 5 tape drives, which can store up to 3 terabytes, with 2:1 compression in a single cartridge. With this solution, AlphaTV has been able to store more content in far less space.

“A Greek TV series stored on 100 DVCPRO tapes took up four shelves in our library, whereas on LTO-5 cartridge now takes up the space of a deck of playing cards,” Constantinos Colombus, chief technology officer at AlphaTV, said in a statement.

In addition to the sheer capacity gains of the LTO 5 drives, the network’s use of IBM LTFS has enabled it to better manage the content on an ongoing basis. IBM LTFS, an intuitive and graphical file system that provides direct access to data on LTO 5 drives, has enabled AlphaTV to manage, move and share video files much like they can with disk-management systems, by simply dragging and dropping. As a result, file management is easier to do and far more efficient, said Colombus.

AlphaTV’s move to IBM’s advanced tape solution underscores the ongoing value and the reverberating impact of the company’s research around magnetic tape that began with a major breakthrough back in 1952. That year, IBM released the IBM 726 tape storage system, a hulking 935-pound system that stored up to 2.3MB of data on reel-to-reel tape. Up to that point, magnetic tape was deemed unreliable and problematic for data storage because the fast starts and stops of the high-powered drives often snapped the relatively brittle media.

IBM researchers solved this problem by employing a “vacuum column” that gently pulled a portion of tape in between access times to create a buffer, or a loop, of loose tape. With this buffer, the tape could withstand the abrupt starts and stops. The innovation was widely adopted by the industry and ushered in the era of modern computing.

With the announcement of this AlphaTV deal on May 15, IBM also celebrated the company’s 60 years of magnetic tape innovation going back to the IBM 726 in 1952 and moving up to the IBM TS1140, which can hold 2 million times more data than the 726 and is designed to provide high levels of performance, reliability and cartridge capacity.



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