New Life for Tape


New technologies come along and relegate old technologies to the trash heap -- that's the rule of thumb. But like any rule, there are exceptions.


Tape is one of them. Despite the falling costs, rising capacities and greater flexibility of disk-based storage, tape continues to march along. And while it might be limited largely to long-term backup, tape continues to draw a substantial amount of R&D.


IBM and Sun, for example, have been racing to be the first with a 1 TB tape drive. IBM is due in September with the System Storage TS1130, which supports drive-based encryption and delivers a maximum data rate of 160 MBps. Sun is hoping to be first out of the gate, though, planning an August launch of the StorageTek T10000B, which relies on a 1TB cartridge developed by Imation. Sun is touting a 120 MBps data rate and is looking to tie the system to the T9840D tape drive for a multi-tiered solution.


DAT tape is also getting a new lease as a data storage medium. HP and Sony have jointly developed a new open format, DAT 320, that boosts capacity to 320 GB and can back up 86 GB in one hour with 2:1 compression, all while using less power than the current DAT 160 format.


Tape has a reputation a more reliable, lower-cost solution for backing up business critical data, which is why failures in tape-based systems are often much more serious than in their disk-based brethren. But Fujifilm Recording Media has developed a tool that can be used to monitor tape conditions for its LTO Ultrium cartridge. By keeping an eye on age, use and other conditions, administrators should be better able to track down the source of failures, even when the problem is not in the tape at all.


Renewed interest in tape is most likely the outgrowth of the increased storage requirements that are hitting all levels of the enterprise industry. Disk-based systems have been getting most of the headlines of late, so it's refreshing to know that there is still a healthy development track for low-end backup and recovery.