Using Barcode Labels - Why and How
If you are using a tape library with a barcode reader, you should be using barcode labels. Why use barcode labels for your tapes? EFFICIENCY. The tape library can identify a tape from its barcode label without having to read the internal label in the tape drive or doing other action. According to HP, this is what happens in a tape library when it updates its inventory and barcode labels are not used.
The bar code scanner must scan each tape or the back of the storage slot until it reads the bar code label for the cartridge or storage slot, or determines that the slot is empty. The bar code scanner can identify a properly labeled cartridge on the first scan. It can identify an empty slot on the second scan. It will try several more scans and then tap on the cartridge before determining that an unlabeled cartridge is in the slot, which takes about four times as long as identifying a properly labeled cartridge. The inventory time for an MSL8096 filled with unlabeled cartridges (96 tapes) is about 30 minutes. Even if you do not need the barcode information, use bar code labels to speed up inventory time.
The above action is only for the library to discover which slots are occupied and which are not. This is different from the BE inventory task which must identify which tapes are in which slots. During the BE inventory process, the tape is taken from its slot, put into the tape drive to have their internal labels read and then returned to their slots. This process is repeated for each tape and hence the inventory process for a large library can take a long time. For my HP MSL2024 tape library with 14 tapes, an inventory of the entire library will take 25 minutes.
If your tapes are properly barcode labeled, an LTO4 tape would not be fed into an earlier generation tape drive.
With barcode labels, when you import a tape, it would be recognized immediately. There is no need to do an inventory of the slot after the import.
When there is a need to update the status of the slots in the library in BE, you can use scan instead of inventory if you have barcode labels. What scan will do is to read the barcode labels and it is done within a couple of seconds. Otherwise, you would have to do an inventory (described above).
Now that you are convinced that barcode labels are good, how do you get them?
You can buy pre-printed barcode labels from your tape vendor. The disadvantage of this approach is that the labels may not be in the format that you want. You are likely to get them in some series like 100000L4, 100001L4, etc., whereas what you wanted is ABC001L4, ABC002L4, … Also, when you buy the next lot of barcode labels, you are unlikely to get them in the continuing sequence.
Alternatively, you can print your own barcode labels. Check with your tape manufacturer as to what the specifications are for their tape libraries. For example, for HP tape libraries, the barcode portion of the label should be on top and the labels is in the format
aaaaaaLn, where a = any alphanumeric character and n = 1 for LTO1, 2 for LTO2 and so on
For cleaning tapes, the label should be CLNaaaL1, where a = any alphanumeric character.
can also do the trick. I did not know that this website exists when I did my barcode labels so I use a freeware barcode generator from Bytescout (attached) and Word. The barcode symbology used for LTO barcode labels is Code 3 of 9 or Code 39. Attached is a sample Word document which you can use if you choose to go this route. The dimensions for the various objects should not be altered. I printed the document on a sheet of plain adhesive paper and cut the labels out. Of course, you can also use pre-cut labels like Avery #6571 or #6577. Do make sure you use a good laser printer and print at the highest resolution.
I got the barcode labels, how do I implement them?
- Make sure that the tape library is sending the entire 8 characters of the label to BE.
- In BE, go to Option -àBarcode Rules and make sure that there is a rule for your tapes. For example, for cleaning tapes, there should be a rule with a prefix of CLN and a suffix of L1.
- You then click on the library in the Devices tab and select the library property. In the Configuration tab of the library properties, check Use Barcode Rules.
- Go to the properties of the tape drive, click on the Media Type tab and make sure that the type of media that can be handled by the tape drive is properly listed. For example, if you are using a LTO4 tape drive, the LTO4 media type should be listed as read and write.
- Put your tapes with the new barcode labels and do a scan of the entire library.
That is it! You can now forget about running inventory.
If you have to change your tape label because of the barcode label convention, don’t worry about it. For example, you have a tape which was previously labeled ABC000001 and now you have to label it ABC001L4 on the barcode label. The next time the tape is used, the internal physical label (ABC000001) of the tape is changed to match the barcode label (ABC001L4) and all the statistics associated with the tape remains unchanged.
For new tapes, just put on the barcode label and it can be used immediately.
When I was testing my barcode labels with just one tape with barcode label and the rest of the tapes using non-barcode labels, BE encountered some errors. I have to remove all the tapes without barcode labels before I can test properly. So if you do want to test out barcode labels use a spare tape and remove the rest of the tapes without barcode labels. Once you are ready to implement barcode labels, label all your tapes. Don’t have a mix of tapes with and without barcode labels.
Barcode labels boost the operation of a tape library tremendously and it does not cost much time or effort to implement them.