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.


  1. Your open mindedness is refreshing. The truth is that nearly every data storage technology has its place in some organization and it is important to look at the requirements driving the retention of data to select the most appropriate technologies to meet the needs. Certainly when it comes to business continuity, fast recovery and even daily backup, disk is increasingly the most sensible way to go. Getting beyond the 30-90 day time horizon for data retention though and you start ebbing into the realm or archive (or at least you should probably start assessing whether retention of your files is really a desire to never loose them even though you aren’t going to use them). This is where I, personally, still see tape as being the most sensible solution. Maybe not forever but certainly for now as discussed here http://bit.ly/pEmCLC and LTO-5 will certainly help keep tape viable.

  2. I also don’t think tape is dead. Certainly I can think of several good uses. But one challenge with tape not explicitly mentioned is discovery. If the company is subpeonaed and has to dig up old data, in many cases (not all), tape can be a bit more time consuming and costly.

    In addition, the move towards cloud will help accelerate the decline of tape — the demand of customers to have ever-decreasing RTO, and the demands of hosting providers to reduce cost.

    Of course, in the interest of disclosure, I too work for a company that is very much involved in this evolution and very much dealing with some of these exact challenges.

  3. Hi, good wishes to all. I believe that tapes will evolve into removable hard drives that have larger capacity for storage. This concept has not really been explored but in my own opinion seems the best solution. I remember that HP had done extensive RD on a Hard drive that was virtually indestructible, but it did not take off because there was no need for this technology at that particular time. We must have offsite information / information because systems are can be attacked through very different and powerful software, that can drill down to different site and curropt the data. Where as with offsite of data one will also havbe some data.

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