A New Act for Tape

Enterprises are increasingly turning from tape-based storage devices to disk-based options, and vendors are responding with products to halt the abandonment of tape-based backup. Here are two companies.

Enterprises are increasingly turning from tape-based storage devices to disk-based options as part of enterprise backup and archival operations to combat tighter backup windows. Tape vendors are responding with new and updated products that promise greater capacities, improved regulatory compliance and better-priced media to halt the abandonment of tape-based backup.

Tape-based backup, still considered by many to be the most reliable means of getting offline data physically off-site, is getting a boost from vendors such as Quantum Corp. and Exabyte Corp. Both companies are addressing some shortcomings of tape, including manageability and cost.

Tape vendors must recognize that customer needs are shifting toward greater capacity and provide them lower-cost media and lower-cost systems, analysts say.

Tape-drive vendor Exabyte, for one, looks to fill the need with its new VXA Packet X Tape offering. The Boulder, Colo., company this week will introduce the X Tape family of VXA cartridges for its VXA-2 technology, which offers 20GB, 40GB and 80GB tape cartridges to enable customers to fine-tune their media purchases, said CEO Tom Ward.

Next summer, Exabyte will introduce and ship the VXA-3, featuring a 160MB tape drive, offering double the capacity and speed but providing the same price point as the VXA-2.

For its part, Quantum is responding with a new DLT (digital linear tape) road map that extends the San Jose, Calif., companys two tape drive product lines—DLT-S, formerly SDLT, and DLT-V, formerly DLT VS—with two generations of backward-read functionality to read previous tape cartridge formats. Extending backward-read capabilities will answer users concerns about complying with emerging data archiving regulations, officials said.

Mark OMalley, senior manager of business planning and development for Quantum, said the company plans to offer two generations of WORM technology for the devices as well.

At the heart of its road-map overhaul, announced last month, Quantums DLT-S devices will emphasize performance, while DLT-V products will zero in on greater capacity and flexibility.

Over the next decade, the DLT-S systems are expected to enable more than 10TB per cartridge and match the transfer speed of NAS (network-attached storage). The DLT-V line is expected to deliver multiterabyte devices for less than $1,000.

Quantum customer Carl Goodman, curator of digital media and director of new media projects at the American Museum of the Moving Image, said that his organization is entrusted with digitizing and storing data for future generations. As such, Goodman said, having an eye toward the long-term future and viability of tape is paramount.

"We see our data and storage needs growing at a rate roughly equivalent to the rate of Quantums road map, and I take some measure of comfort that in the future, we can survive a price/performance curve," said Goodman in Astoria, N.Y. "We can stay at the same price while increasing our storage capacity point through that evolution."

Goodman is entrusted with storing and backing up a host of data, including digital media from video, still images, audio and the Web. He said tape should always play a fundamental role in backup since data must be wedded to media and separated from a playback device. "Were not going to take a server and store that off-site. You want to do that with tape," he said.

However, tape vendors face a difficult battle because many storage customers have grown weary of the slow-footed backup and labor-intensive handling requirements the technology typically demands.

Dan Morreale, CIO at the North Bronx Healthcare Network, New York City Health and Hospital Corp. HHC runs about 200TB of storage. Morreale uses EMC Corp. technology to dynamically back up to disk and stores the data at each hospital in his network, while maintaining a live copy of the data at hand.

"What vendors can do is give up the ghost on tape. Im just not doing that anymore. Its 40-year-old technology, and we can do better [with disk]," said Morreale in New York. "Once you back up to disk, you can automate your processes much easier, and by not buying robots to load or unload tape, I can save hours of time during backups. I would love to see vendors embrace that."


Check out eWEEK.coms Storage Center at http://storage.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis on enterprise and business storage hardware and software.


Be sure to add our eWEEK.com storage news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page