Storage Soup

Mar 24 2008   2:47PM GMT

Tape is dead, long live tape

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Ever since I started covering storage, I’ve been hearing the disk vs. tape debate, usually including proclamations that tape is dead or dying.

There are good reasons to make that assertion. Disk-based backup is catching on, particularly among SMBs, and data deduplication is evening out the cost-per-GB numbers between disk and tape for many midrange applications. Disk is preferable to tape in many ways, especially because it allows faster restore times for backup and archival data. Once again, people are starting to ask, what’s the point of using tape? Dell/EqualLogic’s Marc Farley posted a funny video on his blog to illustrate the question on Friday.

I’m not so sure we’ll ever really see the end of tape. When it comes to the high end, there’s simply too much data to keep on spinning disk. The cost of disk is often still higher per GB, depending on the type of disk and the type of application accessing it. And that doesn’t include power and cooling costs.

I’ve also heard lots of good reasons to give up tape. And maybe in certain markets, like SMBs, tape will die — if it hasn’t already. But whenever tape is on the ropes, another trend comes along to boost it back into relevance.  When disk took over backup, the data archiving trend kicked in, and tape’s savings in power and cooling and its shelf life for long-term data preservation came to the fore. Now, as data dedupe has disk systems vendors pitching their products for archive, too, along comes “green IT” to buoy tape.

Now, I’d like to ask the same questions Farley did, because I’m just as curious to know, and because he and I may have different audiences with different opinions. Do you think tape is dead? If not, what do you use it for? Let us know the amount of data you’re managing in your shop as well.

10  Comments on this Post

 
There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.
Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.
Send me notifications when other members comment.

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy
  • Beth Pariseau
    Hi Beth - As I work for a storage vendor that sells tape (and disk), I obviously think it is here to stay. As you state, the first time I heard of the "Tape is Dead" argument was in 1987! I'd like someone to ask Marc how much power, cooling and footprint cost it would take to store 1PB of data on his Dell EqualLogic disk arrays. Then compare that to a tape system or mixed disk/tape system. He'll quickly find his answer in this comparison. (After all, data sitting on tape consumes 0 power and generates 0 heat) Tape has always been about the economic and removability benefits. What's amusing about the "Tape is dead" argument is that it is always brought up by people who only sell disk systems. I wonder why that is? I think you'll hear most systems vendors say that disk is good for more and more applications and tape is good for others - and that the disk/tape mix is changing over time. That's why the storage leaders still invest extensively in tape - IBM, HP and Sun. EMC even "caved in" to customer pressure and started OEMing tape. So, maybe he should change his blog title from "Is tape dead?" to another disk vendor "beating a dead horse." ;-)
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    Hi Beth, thanks for the reference. It wasn't that long ago that DLT came out of nowhere to become a $1 Billion business for Quantum. I'm not sure what it is now and LTO has certainly assumed some of that market. To me the issue for storage admins is tape management - tape automation, rotation, tape duplication and storage tend to be difficult without automated systems. Restores also tend to be complicated (that's an understatement). My feeling is that tape is going to need a major reduction in the cost of automated tape systems to keep pace with disk based backup systems. Looking at the tape industry, it's not clear that tape will ever be able to catch up to the large scale manufacturing efficiencies of rotating and solid state media production. Also, as video recording media moves to solid state media, tape and tape drive manufacturing gets further and further behind the curve.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    Tape is alive and kicking, but its reason for being was continued to shift right to steadily more dormant data. Meanwhile flash will be taking on the disk applications with the highest performance and lowest capacity needs. Disk is the new tape, and tape is the new microfiche.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    //Disk is the new tape, and tape is the new microfiche.// Really interesting analogy. I hadn't thought of it that way before.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    Taylor, Did I say tape is dead? OK, there was probably some small implication, but I was really asking for examples of how it was being used. For me personally, its dead, but that's just for my own needs as an individual. You almost answered my question, but not really. So I'll ask again - what are you using tape for?
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    Hi Marc - ok, fair enough - I'll answer your question! As an individual: I am not using tape. My laptop is backed up to a Maxtor drive and my home Mac is backed up to an external LaCie drive. My business: My network server, wiki content, shared org data, etc. is stored on disk and backed up to tape. Our customers: Use tape as a storage tier for their data protection and archive needs. They pay us close to a couple billion a year for our tape products and services; and about 11 exabytes of data is sitting on Sun StorageTek tape. To add - I do think the new Dell RD1000 is pretty darn cool, I may even look at it for individual use. But if you were to store the above mentioned 11 exabytes on 240GB cartridges at $199.99 - it would cost you $9.2B...
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    Marc - I do have to give you kudos for one thing in your video however. The Pink Floyd tape. I'm a long time fan, The Wall is a work of art. And yes, I first listened to it on record, then tape, then CD and now on SSD/Flash. I do have one complaint however - there is a backward message in the album that you could get to by playing the record backwards. I haven't figured out how to do that on my iPod yet - but nowadays I probably have better things to do... Cheers, Taylor
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    Taylor, the only way I know of to play an MP3 backwards is with a digital audio editor that lets you flip it around. I didn't know there was a backwards thang in The Wall.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    To me there is still a huge requirement for tape, if you look at the disaster recovery requirements etc, not all SMB clients or even enterprise clients can afford to have offsite disk replication for recovery purposes, so in saying this it still makes sense to have the clients active data on disk and a copy on tape offsite maybe with collocation to increase restore times and the inactive archive data on tape offsite, depends on your policies.Makes sense to me at this point.
    0 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Beth Pariseau
    what's the shelf life / durability of powervaullt rd1000,dell?
    0 pointsBadges:
    report

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: