Tape Storage Regains Its Cool Factor

Monday, 19 May 2014 by Marcel Mascunan

We have seen the tape market decline for several years now and it is trending toward withering to a niche solution. In the last decade tape lost much favour for backup applications, being replaced by the combination of HDD/SSD storage and de-duplication.

But what a massive niche!

Tape is ideal for long term archiving of enormous amounts of data whilst providing decent access times from huge energy efficient libraries, with a far lower price per TB than disk. Access issues can be overcome thanks to Linear Tape File System (LTFS), an open source LTFS specification from the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Programme. This open format lets a tape drive and media act just like a disk drive. Enormous new installs by cloud storage companies are confirming this trend.

Tape’s last stand in cold storage is to archive tomorrow’s exabytes of data generated by users and businesses. We now see companies like Amazon offering cold storage at competitive rates. It doesn’t take much fortune teller skills to predict many organisations will have to deal with their own big data or cold storage challenges in the near future and make a decision to keep it all in-house or go (partially) external.

Cold storage is a perfect fit for data that is hardly ever accessed and for which retrieval times are less critical. But how do you classify data? IBM Systems Magazine posted a handy article about a tiered system of data classifications and how ‘data temperatures’ affect storage provisioning and DR options.