Backup, Archival, and Storage Solutions for the Real World

Tape Data Formats:  BRU, LTFS, and tar

Why LTFS is not the solution the marketing buzz makes it out to be, and yes, BRU is proprietary, and why that's a good thing for your data protection.

 

Customers are continually coming to TOLIS Group and BRU sharing horror stories about unmanageable workflows, unbearably slow data transfer speeds, unrecoverable data sets, and at worst, actual data loss when using other tools.  Those other tools are based on the tar format (the flaws of which are why BRU was first developed in 1985), or more recently, on the LTFS format.

 

TOLIS Group's has only one mission--to backup your data in the fastest way possible, verify the data's integrity on any and all systems regardless of the OS they were written on, and finally TO GET THE DATA BACK when you need it.  To do this, we have been developing and providing the BRU format and BRU product line for 30+, with those requirements as our sole focus.  It is a proprietary format (more on this below) because what we do to accomplish this takes a dedicated team to care about the customer experience and customer's data retention for the long term.

It is disheartening to TOLIS Group that so many vendors are so cavalier about the lack of reliability in the LTFS format, simply seeking to find an easy way to write to tape without any efforts being applied to the customer experience, or most importantly, to the long term retention/recoverability of customer data.  It is important to separate the marketing hype from the facts.  And this should be unacceptable to you as well, this is your data we're talking about!

 

It is important to note that only the BRU format delivers the speed, reliability of verification, and long term storage options that you should expect and demand from your solution format, period.  The current buzz surrounding the LTFS container format does not take into consideration its many weaknesses and deficiencies.  And in fact, glosses over them by adding layers above the LTFS container format that are designed to lesson/disguise the affect of those issues.  A great deal of money is being spent marketing solutions based on LTFS with many of the vendors having no integral knowledge of how tape devices work, and how the data should be managed.  Even the aging and venerable tar container format has more data management capabilities than LTFS.

 

For a look at the caveats of using LTFS that you should consider if you must use the LTFS format, please see this important article:
http://knowledgebase.tolisgroup.com/index.php?View=entry&EntryID=263  For more information about what the LTFS format is and its origins, please visit our LTFS white paper.

 

For more information on the BRU format and how it compares to the tar format, please visit our White Papers.

 

Another concern to TOLIS Group is the continued disparaging message that open source is better than proprietary in the backup and archival space.

 

Ask yourself, since Linux is open source and freely available, are you replacing your OS X and Windows systems with Linux systems because OS X and Windows are "closed source"?

 

No?  Well now let's get into the details.  LTFS is open source while BRU is proprietary.  If you break LTFS, who do you call?  With BRU, you call TOLIS Group and we get you back on track. As for being open source, anyone can get the spec and base source and create their own version of LTFS. This results in the "too many cooks in the kitchen" scenario, and that has happened in that there are over 22 different versions of LTFS at last count, and many don't play well with one another, in spite of what the marketing would like to have you believe.

 

As for having the code available under an open source license, are you a low-level C programmer? Do you have the skill set and tape hardware knowledge to take on the responsibility for the LTFS code in your organization? A very important question to consider before you let the "concept" of open source seem to be a positive (for any solution, not just LTFS).

 

It all sounds great in discussion, but in practical application, you want to use tools that provide the best solution for your task. You also want to be able to depend on the solution and the team(s) responsible for that solution. To revisit, who do you call if your open source product doesn't work?

 

Okay, so what if TOLIS Group goes out of business?


We've placed the BRU source code in escrow with many of our major clients and offer it to others if their dependence on the actual product is that strictly regulated. The result is that in this case, the source code would be available to those organizations for continued development. Or, what if the principles decide they'd rather go fishing (or racing) than continue the business? In that case, we have a clause in our corporate structure where we would release the source code under the BSD open source license to the world.

 

How do you share BRU archives?  By providing your client with the BRU DEMO for their system.  Restore is ALWAYS free and never expires in the DEMO, no purchase necessary.

 

So, either way, TOLIS Group customers and BRU users are protected into the foreseeable future.

 

Wouldn't you rather relax at night knowing that your data is safely archived and that help is just an email or phone call away if something gets sideways?

 

     Lastly, why should I be concerned about the data format?  Isn't tape just like disk?

 

Unlike what many tape based archival and backup solutions that are being marketed today imply, tape is nothing like disk, and it never will be.  And this is a good thing.  Unlike a disk which is continually read, written, updated, manipulated in a random access process, a tape is written serially from its beginning to its end.  When you write a file onto a disk, pieces of the file can be splattered all over the physical media.  When you write a file to a tape, that file is written in consecutive logical blocks.  This is true regardless of the container format used for the data involved.  The big difference between the various formats available is related to to the manner the data is maintained within that container architecture.

 

Not all data containers are created equal.  Remember our slogan - BRU ... Because it's the RESTORE that matters!