The Tales That Tape Can Tell

 
 
By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-10-29 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Magnetic tape and I go back a long way. Thirty years ago, I was mispronouncing "hysteresis" (the magnetically sticky behavior that makes it possible for tape to record stuff) while tuning my open-reel stereo deck to minimize analog hiss. Dolby

Magnetic tape and I go back a long way. Thirty years ago, I was mispronouncing "hysteresis" (the magnetically sticky behavior that makes it possible for tape to record stuff) while tuning my open-reel stereo deck to minimize analog hiss. Dolby hardware was beyond my means.

I still have most of the tapes that I made back then, and—more to the point—I still have the same tape deck. Which means that I can play back the tapes, noisy or not. Bob Terdeman, chief data warehousing architect at EMC, wonders how many enterprise IT leaders can say the same about their own magnetic tape records.

Describing his tour of a claustrophobically rugged data vault, Terdeman observed that many of the reels that he saw there were in seven-track format. "How many of you still have a seven-track drive?" he asked my fellow attendees at the annual Best Practice Awards meeting of New Yorks Technology Managers Forum.

If old-format drives have actually been kept on hand or files migrated from old media types to new, what about file formats? What word processor were you using seven years ago, what custom applications with their unique file types? Could you use those files today, assuming theyre intact and supported by hardware? Could you produce that data on demand or for purposes of business continuity if your mainline storage systems were destroyed?

At the same meeting in New York, I spoke with engineers from ADI Corp. (more commonly known as ADIC). That companys stock in trade is a broad line of tape devices handling DLT, LTO—even VHS videocassettes. Apart from the mechanical challenge of robotic handling for all those media, they told me that software partnerships are critical to a successful installation: If backup, archival and retrieval arent convenient operations that are well integrated with specific IT missions, the associated systems wont be regularly exercised.

The first time that those systems are really needed is a terrible time to conduct their first true test.

 
 
 
 
Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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