Tape Libraries on a Roll

Arthur Cole

It's happened so often over the years that no one is predicting the end of tape storage anymore.

In fact, you could argue that the exact opposite is happening now-a renaissance of sorts in tape library systems geared toward simplicity of operation and deployment, even for the smallest of data centers.

Fresh out of the gate is Qualstor, which just introduced the XLS Enterprise tape library system designed to fit easily into standard rack configurations. Although only 23 inches wide, the unit can accommodate up to 780 tape slots, delivering more than 624 TB in less than 11 square feet. The system is already compatible with the upcoming LTO 5 tape drive, while a 535-slot Memory Expansion Module is available for additional storage or data-protection capabilities.

Heading even further down-market is Quantum Corp., which recently added two low-end models to its Scalar iLayer portfolio. At a starting price of $7,500, the i140 and i80 libraries are aimed squarely at SMB users, providing from 25 to 80 slots with up to 10 import/export slots and either Fibre Channel or SAS interfaces plus AES 256-bit encryption. The units also feature the iLayer management software, which the company claims can cut management time in half.

For top-end systems, the focus is on reducing the hefty cost of tape library deployment and ongoing operations. Spectra Logic says it can shave more than 30 percent off the initial capital investment, plus another 15 to 20 percent in annual operating expenses with the Spectra T-Finity system. A single library unit scales up to 45 PB, with unified multi-unit configurations available up to 180 PB, allowing you to consolidate multiple legacy systems while still maintaining service for high-speed/high-transaction environments. Initial pricing starts at $218,000.

That tape continues to endure in an era of high-capacity hard drives and SSDs isn't all that surprising once you start to look at the numbers. Per GB, tape is still the lowest-cost option around, and the new high-density designs like the T-Finity can accommodate up to 72 TB per square foot-a key consideration in an era when data center real estate is at a premium.

With modern enterprises deploying so many tiers of storage, it's unlikely that any one type of medium will find obsolescence any time soon. Tape is likely to be the go-to solution for long-term archiving for some time-even as newer solutions draw more headlines.

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