It's Taps for Tape

The demise of tape storage is at hand

July 19, 2006

2 Min Read
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Tape storage is riding a death-cart whose wheels are spinning faster than ever toward the precipice.

We've had ample warning. The explosion of data and the pressure to store it reliably have exposed tape's drawbacks. Lengthy backups, lost and stolen data, and the short life cycle of tape sealed its doom months ago. (See Diskers Enjoying Tape Woes.)

The handwriting has been scrawled on the wall by new products that offer alternatives to traditional tape vaulting. Copan and Sepaton, for example, continue to move successfully into the archiving space, even as tape suppliers consolidate. (See Quantum Takes Tape Rival ADIC, Copan Cops $17.5M, Sepaton Unveils Six Steps, and Backup Strategies, Solutions & Architecture.)

Users are increasingly willing to adopt tape alternatives. One director of IT infrastructure expressed the situation thusly: "When it takes six hours to restore data and you're almost finished, and have to start over because you reach capacity limits, it gets to be a problem. That led us to look at backup to disk." So said Jeffrey Zuniga of Labor Ready in a recent interview. (See Users Ponder Tape Independence.)

Another user interviewed for the same story, Jeff Machols, systems integration manager at retirement and health benefits firm CitiStreet, explains the unacceptable risks that tape poses these days: "You're sending your data offsite, and putting it in the hands of somebody else. That's bad, especially restricted information or compliance information. Whether it's a real risk or perceived risk, it doesn't matter. In some cases when tapes got lost nobody got their hands on the data, but that's not in the news stories. It's always, 'You lost that data.' "Is it any wonder that new techniques are being sought for long-term archiving? (See PowerFile Pushes DVD Archiving and Xiotech Sets Sights on Solid State.) Hardly. The only wonder is why it's taking some companies so long to see the reality of the situation.

"Some disk-base advocates have taken the view that disk is replacing tape. We've found that's not the case at all," says Krish Padmanabhan, NetApp's GM of its VTL unit. "Physical tape libraries are still used for long-term retention."

Well, NetApp can afford that attitude, since it has no tape business to protect. Meanwhile, even Sun is hedging its bets, as shown by that company's virtual elimination of a longstanding tape library standards project. (See Sun Shuts Door on VSM Open.)

Tape may hang on for awhile, but any thought that its future in enterprise data centers is secure is empty nonsense. Indeed, any company that ties its fortunes to tape is gearing up for a ride over the edge.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Copan Systems Inc.

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • PowerFile Inc.

  • Sepaton Inc.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Xiotech Corp.0

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