I got an interesting article the other day called “The Hot New Storage Technology for 2011 is…Tape?”  The upshot of the article was that thanks to LTO-5, tape is more relevant than it ever has been.  Well…maybe…

The paper was written by Data Mobility Group, and in tracking this down, it appears to be a third-party authoritative piece commissioned by Hewlett-Packard’s tape group.  A link to the document may be found here.

Rather than go through a point-by-point analysis of the paper, I’d note the following:  The best data protection solutions are those that are inherently flexible.  By flexible, I don’t just mean that they protect a lot of different operating systems, storage platforms, server platforms, applications, hypervisors, and the like.  I also mean that the way that they use media is flexible as well.

If you have a religious belief that tape is a superior primary backup medium, then all of the data in the world isn’t going to convince you otherwise.  The tape market as a whole is decreasing. However, if you are in the minority group who believes differently, you’re welcome to your beliefs. If I was at a large enough global 1000 company with a centralized IT structure, it might very well be that I’d use tape.  D2D (Disk-to-Disk) vendors (I work for one of them) aren’t the people you want to talk to if this is your type of company or your belief system.  Instead, you want to talk to D2T (Disk-to-Tape) vendors.

While D2D is obviously accelerating when compared to D2T, I think it’s foolish to declare “tape is dead.”  While I don’t agree with a lot of the Data Mobility Group paper, the points made concerning tape as a long-term archival medium seem to be spot on to me.  While I hate restoring from tapes, the fact that tapes have a longer shelf life is compelling in terms of archiving.

The longer shelf life of tapes is one of the reasons that I believe in flexible third-tier D2D architectures – by that I mean D2D2x (Disk-to-Disk-to-Any) where “any” can be disk, tape, NAS, SAN, private cloud, or public cloud.

I think it’s just plain stupid to fight these “tape sucks” arguments.  The truth is that like any technology, tape has undergone an evolution in its use within the information technology infrastructure.  Somewhere between 5% and 10% of our customers, for example, use tape technologies for longer-term archiving. It makes sense to them given their particular needs and it certainly doesn’t make them stupid.  In fact, the only thing that makes anyone stupid is blindly believing that one size fits all for anything – which means that the smartest people I know are those that plan ahead and use flexible data protection solutions to “future-proof” their investment.