Tape Makes a Comeback in the Era of Big Data

Arthur Cole
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It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that Big Data requires big storage. The conundrum for today's enterprise, however, is that big storage comes with a big price tag.

The need for large amounts of bulk storage at relatively low cost has naturally led many organizations to take another look at tape - this following nearly a decade of predictions that the medium had finally seen the end of its days.

As Enterprise Storage Forum's Drew Robb pointed out this week, tape is once again dominating long-term archival applications, out-deploying both internal and external disk systems and even the cloud. And with compound annual growth expected to average about 45 percent for the next three years, tape's status will only increase as the decade unfolds.

A quick look at the numbers is all it takes to convince many CIOs of the efficacy of tape. According to ethnopedia.info, initial deployment costs are 75 percent lower than disk, and operational costs have dropped seven-fold over the past five years. The latest Linear Open Tape (LTO)-5 format boasts 1.5 TB capacity, with transfer speeds now exceeding 100 MBps, more than twice that of SATA RAID-5 and RAID-6.

Numbers like that are driving some of the latest tape library platforms into the storage stratosphere. Earlier this month, Spectra Logic launched the T-Finity ExaScale platform that supports upwards of 2.6 exabytes across 400,000 cartridges. The system accommodates LTO-5, LTO-6 and IBM TS1140 drives and provides an XML-based Open Library API to integrate legacy software management applications into the T-Finity environment.

Tape may have a lot going for it, but the fact is that most systems will play one part of a multimedia storage environment. It's helpful, then, to have a storage solution than can navigate across various tape, disk and cloud tiers. Imation recently released a new scalable storage platform designed for multitiered environments. The portfolio consists of the InfiniVault and DataGuard archive and protection appliances, along with the RDX removable hard disk and the company's LTO cartridges. The system is designed to scale from small business environments to medium and large enterprises.

Tape's biggest drawback is the continued perception that it represents "old technology." In an age where even compact discs have given way to the iPod, how could a professional data operation rely on anything as antiquated as tape?

However, that attitude is a reflection of limited thinking. With data strewn across all manner of virtual and cloud infrastructure these days, underlying hardware has become largely irrelevant.

An impartial evaluation of tape's strengths and weaknesses should show that it may not play a dominant role in modern data architectures, but it remains a valuable resource nonetheless.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 28, 2013 11:48 AM mike johnson mike johnson  says:
This consequence of Servo system make this next generation LTO 6 media cartridge more reliably and go beyond the necessities and arrange the foundation for smooth and superior coming generations. Reply

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