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With Tape Storage, Everything Old is New Again

by on September 6, 2011

There was a time when tape was “it” when it came to data storage. Disk was too expensive for most storage needs. The cloud didn’t yet exist. Most businesses were backing up to tape, which was inexpensive, reliable and straightforward to manage. Enter increasingly affordable hard disk arrays, and the world of data storage changed. Today, tape, disk and the cloud all play a role in storing the rapidly expanding data universe, with businesses using different mixes of media depending on their needs.

Somewhere in between the old days of tape’s dominance and the new world of peaceful storage media coexistence, tape-bashing came into vogue. Predictions of tape’s pending demise abounded. And while I still do come across the occasional declaration that “tape is dead,” just as often these days I find evidence of tape’s strengths—like in this recent press release from the LTO (Linear Tape-Open Program Technology Provider Companies. OK, so the studies referenced in the press release aren’t exactly new themselves. But they do offer more proof of how the attributes that made tape a great storage medium in the “old” data storage world continue to make it a viable part of the storage media mix in the “new” world.

Specifically, the Enterprise Strategy Group and The Clipper Group studies both found “that tape had significant total cost of ownership benefits over disk, including lower cost per GB, lower operating expenses and lower energy costs.” Sure, tape has always been cost effective—that’s old news. What’s newer news is how tape’s relative cost advantage makes it a better-suited medium for certain applications—primarily long-term storage and archiving—than the alternative.

I’ve said it before and, with the release of these studies, I’ll say it again: Despite many predictions to the contrary, it turns out, tape doesn’t suck. The evidence shared recently by the LTO group, not to mention the experience of millions of businesses that incorporate tape into their enterprise storage strategies, yet again prove otherwise.

What do you think? Does tape have a role in the modern data center?

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