Just when I think that I have heard every reason for keeping data on tape, new arguments keep emerging. Now the latest is that tape is more energy efficient than disk.
My first real insight into this came a few weeks ago when I was speaking to Spectra Logic’s director of technical marketing, Molly Rector, who had just returned to Denver after meetings with Spectra Logic channel partners, resellers and users in the New York and Boston area. The feedback that she received from her meetings was that some data centers in the Northeast were running low on power and no longer able to obtain new power. In these cases, the shortage of power was forcing their customers to choose tape because it was more energy efficient than disk even though they wanted to buy disk for their backup environment.
While it may be true that tape consumes less power than disk, it is disconcerting that some companies find themselves in this predicament of needing to choose tape over disk because of something as seemingly preventable as an inadequate supply of power.
Keeping data on tape costs businesses in ways that are sometimes hard to measure. Legal discoveries, the personnel needed to manage tape and moving and storing tapes offsite all add to the costs of tape management and also consume power in more subtle ways. To somehow conclude that the choice between disk and tape somehow needs to stop and start with a company’s rate of energy consumption seems a bit archaic to me.
Tape may consume less power than disk, but that does not necessarily make tape a better choice. Disk and tape are both choices that companies need to have available to them and either one, if managed properly and looked at from a total cost of ownership, can save companies money and cut energy consumption in the process.
Companies in this situation are obviously looking at some hard choices in the near term as their choices are less about the choice between disk and tape but if it is time to change how and even where they manage their data. In the Northeast, it appears some companies have already waited too long to make a decision because when the number of outlets left in the wall dictates what storage media they need to buy, the only choices left are unpleasant ones.