Is tape dead? in response to eWEEK Labs recent “Backup Advances” package, several readers offered persuasive arguments that tape has lost its place as a worthwhile backup medium. However, eWEEK Labs is not ready to write the epitaph on tape storages tombstone. The demand for tape is spurring a new generation of tape backup products (see www.eWEEK.com/labslinks).
This doesnt mean tape will rule the roost forever, of course. The need for fail-safe data protection and the technology to provide it have evolved to the point where near-line storage is becoming more compelling than tape in many environments.
With ATA disks providing ever-better capacity per price, tape vendors are under pressure to deliver much faster and less expensive tapes. Tapes future could hinge on the performance of the new generation of technology starting to emerge (see chart).
Should these standards fail to keep up with ATA disks, it could be bad news for tape. However, there are other reasons why hard or optical drives might become the future of backup technology.
First, hard drive backups (also called disk-to-disk backups) can be mounted on demand. This makes restoration quick and relatively painless. Anyone who has had to do a full restore knows that the process required for complete tape backups is often complex and time-consuming.
Near-line solutions such as optical- and hard-drive-based backups are also becoming increasingly popular, as downtime has become the chief enemy of IT managers. Companies that cant afford to be offline cant rely on tape for backup because it requires downtime.
The emergence of solutions such as Storage Technology Corp.s EchoView line will likely push more IT managers into the continuous-backup camp. EchoView, a disk-to-disk backup solution, keeps track of data changes on a transaction level and mirrors them to disk while keeping time-stamp records. It can restore data from a specific time period in matter of seconds. (See eWEEK Labs review of EchoView at www.eWEEK.com/ labslinks.)
Because continuous-backup solutions capture all transactions and file creation events when they happen—as opposed to tape backup, which preserves data at specific points in time—continuous backup will be especially useful for transaction-oriented applications such as databases.
Tapes can occasionally become unreliable, especially when IT managers neglect to keep tape drive heads clean or store the tapes in less-than-ideal conditions. Long-term storage of tape can be problematic as well. Although tapes can last for dozens of years in storage, the drives needed to read them might not enjoy the same longevity. Even scarier, if a tape vendor goes out of business, IT managers could be stuck with a mountain of unsupported tapes.
Despite its problems, tape will live on because disaster recovery and remote data storage are major responsibilities for IT managers. The fact is, tape is currently the best form of removable storage, thanks to the performance and capacity superiority it has over optical storage mediums.
Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE FUTURE OF TAPE STORAGE
LTO-2, S-AIT and SDLT 600 teach a stalwart storage technology some new tricks—such as higher capacity and faster throughput
- LTO-2, from Certance (formerly Seagate Removable Storage Solutions), Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM, also clocks 30MB per second and puts 200GB onto each tape; available now
- S-AIT, from Sony Corp., clocks 30MB per second and stores half a terabyte on each cartridge; available now
- SDLT 600, from Quantum Corp., boasts 32MB-per-second performance and stores 300GB per tape; availability hasnt been finalized, possibly in the fall