Tape: Bloodied but not Beaten

Stalwart storage technology is ubiquitous, and there's still room for improvement

Is there a more interesting way to start out the New Year than ramping up for a tape drive test-drive?

I can think of a couple dozen other things I could do with my lab time, but the fact of the matter is tape is still an important technology, one that almost all organizations still have and one that will be around in the foreseeable future.

As much as Ive welcomed the arrival of ATA hard-drive-based backup solutions (which deliver pretty cost-efficient backup capabilities, thanks to the drop in price of ATA hard drives) and the advances made in long-distance data-mirroring fields, tape is still around for a couple of reasons.

First, tape is removable and easily transportable. This makes it valuable for storing business data in the event that something bad happens to a home site. Sure, you could go out and implement a mirroring solution, but that usually entails setting up a high-speed WAN link to each of your sites and bringing in solutions like EMCs SRDF, which are not exactly easy to deploy.

Another reason why tape is still around is that it is a mature technology, which is easy to deploy and still continues to improve.

At the top of my wish list is the StorageTek T9940B tape drive, which can deliver a whopping 30MB-per-second native data transfer and 200GB-per-cartridge (native) capacity. Another drive that has me excited is Sonys new S-AIT drive, which also boasts a 30MB-per-second native data transfer rate and boosts native capacity to 500GB-per-cartridge (native), and an almost unbelievable 1.3 terabytes per tape with compression.

Those drives are obviously the Ferrari and Porsche of tape drives. I also hope to test Quantums S-DLT tape drive, which is not as fast as the other drives, but is probably closer to what the average IT manager will be able to purchase.

Ive just about convinced myself to get going on this tape-drive project: Hopefully Ive convinced you to read about it in one of our future issues.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.