The IT world is at the epicentre of a data explosion – up to 90% of the data that exists in the world today has been generated in the last two years. The advent of social media, digital and video uploads and downloads, Google, emails, texts, online transactions, mobile phones and GPS systems have all played a part – and these data vehicles have an expanding outlook in terms of both use and consumption.
Many organisations are therefore confronted with the challenge of having to store ever-increasing amounts of data to maintain and grow their business while complying with regulations. But how do they best keep their information safe, ensure it is properly protected for the long-term and recover it at a later date if required?
One solution that addresses all of these concerns is tape storage. While much attention has been focused on developments in the disk-based storage world, tape technology remains a critical part of the IT infrastructure. A survey of 1,000 UK businesses by Vanson Bourne found that 83% of them continue to use tape storage systems to back up and protect business data, and 54% of them expect to invest in tape storage systems before the end of 2015.
While it might not be too much of a surprise to hear tape continues to flourish as a back up technology, many people may be unaware that tape is also playing an influential part in big data and cloud computing. A recent Intersect360 Research study of technology deployments for big data applications found 35% of respondents were using tape as part of their storage infrastructure for big data.
In May 2012, a dozen tape storage providers, including Overland, issued a joint statement that sought to reinforce tape’s big data credentials. Noting the significant numbers of businesses using tape as part of their storage infrastructure for big data, the providers argued the market was taking advantage “of the integration of tape’s historical benefits and new innovations to use tape to protect large data sets”. The commentary went on to address the cost-effectiveness and media longevity of tape coupled with the data integrity verification and file system interfaces as just the tip of the iceberg for the feature benefits. Tape users enjoy “significant cost advantages, reliability, and continued innovations improving tape’s capacity, speed, and ease-of-use”.
On the subject of cost, the standardisation of LTO (Linear Tape Open) technology has married very impressive capacity, speed and energy-efficient performance levels with powerful data management capabilities. Research by the Clipper Group reported that the cost of energy for disk over a five year period is about 290 times more than tape.
By comparison to the tape technology offering from even ten years ago, tape drives delivered a mere 6MB/s transfer speed and cartridge capacity was limited to 40GB. Fast forward to the new LTO-6 technology tape and users are now able to transfer up to 1.3TB per hour per tape drive and provide as much as 6.25TB capacity per cartridge. In addition, the durability and portability of data cartridges means they can be shipped all over the world for offsite storage or data sharing.
Tape storage is a strong solution for supporting business operations and providing a practical, reliable way to house long-term data storage. It is also the only viable solution for archive-tier data, offering businesses a unique blend of infinite capacity, energy-efficiency and portability. And with the advent of exciting features such as LTFS, which gives tape disk-like drag & drop functionality, industry experts expect to see tape-based storage experience a new wave of popularity in data centres across the globe.
Most businesses will be required to blend a range of storage platforms and media – from disk-based to tape-based storage to cloud storage – to ensure their short-term and long-term storage goals are met in the most cost-effective, seamless manner possible. For these reasons, and with data growth and retention requirements ever increasing, the need to keep or incorporate tape is becoming ever more apparent.
Tape’s role in the cloud is also expected to be significant. A white paper produced by the Information Storage Industry Consortium at the end of 2011, entitled International Magnetic Tape Storage Roadmap, argued tape’s low cost, high data reliability and encryption attributes made it “ideal for use behind the scenes in cloud storage offerings, and it is anticipated that such applications for tape will grow with cloud storage business growth”. It predicted the amount of data kept on tape would experience a compound annual growth rate of 45% from 2010 through to 2015.
Tape is a $2.3bn market that’s very much grounded in the foundation of the backup and archive industry. If vendors and their channel partners want to be best placed to provide customers with all the constituent parts of a blended storage platform going forward that suits hot technology areas such as big data and the cloud, they should ensure they keep a place for tape in their product portfolio.