Perth’s Tape Ark tapped for massive UK Met Office data migration

Guy Holmes (Band Ark)

Credit: Band Ark

Perth-based start-up Tape Ark has been given a mammoth project to convert terabytes of historic British Meteorological Office tapes into cloud storage files.

Tape Ark, which specializes in migrating huge swaths of old-school tape files to the cloud, will be tasked with moving decades of tapes collected by the UK Met Office into a Microsoft-designed supercomputer.

Microsoft itself has won a 2.2 billion Australian dollar contract from the Met Office to build a supercomputer that should take “weather and climate forecasting to the next level and help the UK stay safe and prosperous”. .

According to Tape Ark, the supercomputer can determine the weather up to one square meter. Currently in the proof-of-concept stage, Project Silica involves storing data on an unbreakable glass “platter,” which can store 75.6 gigabytes of data.

As part of the deal, Tape Ark will migrate 220 petabytes of data to the cloud.

“I have personally overseen the transfer of millions of tapes over my career and the deterioration of tapes and the lack of legacy material are real and very serious threats to some of the world’s most important data collections,” said Guy Holmes, founder and CEO of Tape Arche.

“The movement toward storage media that Project Silica is enabling is one of the most welcome advances in data storage technology I’ve seen in the past decade.”

Jurgen Willis, vice president of program management at Microsoft, said the glass storage device “will stand the test of time.”

Holmes first founded Tape Ark in 2017 after realizing that the cost of storing legacy tapes on shelves far outweighed the cost of paying for the public cloud.

Working with all public cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud, and Azure, Tape Ark has transferred data for some of the world’s largest entertainment companies, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

With a significant presence in the US and now in the UK, Tape Ark now has a team of 25 employees, primarily made up of cloud architects, alongside a physicist, geophysicist and data scientist.

“One of the big challenges was at the start that there was a disbelief that [content on tape] was a real problem; for the world to have this content on tape that was created 10 years ago was even helpful to everyone,” Holmes said.

“And in the investment community, there were a lot of doubts. They said it wasn’t a real market or we would end up reading all the tapes in the market.

“You know, the reality is that we know there are over a billion tapes and we would be very happy to read them all.”

Holmes said the business has seen growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking ahead to 2022, Holmes said Tape Ark has some “really cool projects” underway from the United States in broadcasting and aerospace.

In Australia, the company also carries out significant work in the public sector. “We are starting to see the government realize that sustaining hundreds of thousands of cases in many sites across the country is simply not sustainable,” Holmes explained.

“So we’re starting to get really good traction in the public sector. We’re looking at partnering relationships with backup vendors. So companies that are currently backing up tapes and have customers that are migrating to the cloud and want to bring their collections with them in the cloud, so we are working on several partnerships in this area.”



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Tags MicrosoftTape ArkProject SilicaGuy Holmes

Sean N. Ayres