Tape Is Still the Greenest Storage Around


For those who think tape storage is the old way of doing things, outclassed by newer, more efficient and low-cost disk systems, I have news for you:

It turns out that only does tape still cost less than any comparable disk technology, but it is also more energy efficient.

That's the take from this article by Mark Ferelli on Enterprise Systems Journal. He points out that tape is still the greenest solution around because it uses less power and generates less heat than spinning media. Tape also has a longer shelf life and avoids completely the power-up requirements of disk. When idle, a full tape library uses less power than a standard reading lamp.

No one is arguing that you should use tape for your immediate storage needs, but in archiving, you'll see a lower TCO by sticking with the technology a little longer.

That was the thinking behind the new Fujitsu FX1 supercomputer recently brought online by the Japan Aerospace Explorations Agency (JAXA), billed as the most efficient supercomputer in the world. Intended to run complex simulations of launch conditions, the machine consists of more than 3,000 quad-core Sparc64 VII processors and offers 94 TB of memory and a theoretical peak of 120 teraflops. Designers built in about 1 PB of disk storage, plus another 10 PB on tape

To get the most out of your tape system, a little organization might be in order, however. This profile of an unnamed company shows how it improved operations by streamlining its multiple tape formats down to a single IBM TS3200 platform using Ultrium 3 drives. The result was lower operational costs, mainly through reduced tape purchases and fewer management burdens, improved reliability and lessened reliance on off-site storage facilities.

At the moment, the biggest unknown in the tape industry is what the future holds in the event of an IBM-Sun merger. Between the two of them, they control more than 90 percent of both the tape automation system and tape cartridge businesses, which could raise antitrust issues if the government chooses to view tape storage as distinct from overall storage.

It's fashionable to think that the latest and greatest technologies are more environmentally friendly than the clunky old solutions of the past -- think the Prius vs. the Cadillac. In the case of storage, however, newer isn't necessarily better. Disks still play a vital role in near-line storage, but tape is still the most efficient solution for archiving.