Lonely in Bedford

By Andy Feather
Sr. Director, Engineering & Technical Services
FUJIFILM Recording Media U.S.A., Inc

Ever hear of the Maytag repairman commercials? It was a role played by actor Jesse White (thank you Google). Because Maytag machines were so reliable, he never got any work and was the loneliest guy in town. Sometimes I wonder if our technical support engineers here at our factory in Bedford, MA suffer the same fate thanks to the reliability of today’s tape technology.

But I do have a tech support story I want to share. Not long ago, I got a call from Brookhaven National Labs out in Long Island, N.Y. They reported that an LTO-6 tape was mechanically malfunctioning and could not be accessed by their drives. They asked if we could we take a look at it, fix it and send it back because this was an important tape containing client data.

Our tech support engineers received the tape by express mail within a day of the complaint. The first step was to analyze the cartridge memory chip data, and it was determined that there were no error messages. The production history was reviewed, and there were no indications of any issues at the time that the cartridge was manufactured. Upon physical inspection it became apparent that the leader pin and clip were dislodged. The cartridge was x-rayed in order to determine if the leader pin and clip were still inside the cartridge. The x-ray results (see photo below) revealed that the leader pin and clip were still intact, but stuck inside the cartridge.

The leader pin had become dislodged but this was not caused by a manufacturing defect. Two possible causes were either mishandling of the cartridge, or there was an issue with one of Brookhaven’s drives which caused the leader pin to not be returned correctly into the leader pin spring. The cartridge memory data showed that data was successfully written multiple times before the issue occurred. Brookhaven was advised of the drive serial number needing investigation for possible issues.

The tech support engineers then proceeded to remove the barcode label and unscrew the cartridge in order to access the dislodged leader pin. The leader pin was properly repositioned and clamped. The barcode label was reprinted and reapplied. The cartridge was returned to Brookhaven the next day via express service. All of this was much to Brookhaven’s relief, and the client’s data was restored without much delay.

Brookhaven shared with us that they have written more than 100 PB of data on LTO tape. Regarding LTO-6 alone, they have 21,235 tapes in their environment with a total of 1,644,440 mounts. Only one tape had the problem shared above, and it was fixed in a day.

How can our “Maytag team” help you? We are here to support you on any aspect of tape media operation and performance. Beyond media, we can refer you to the right supporting hardware and software vendors or 3rd party service providers. Just let us know!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *