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Disk-Based Archiving Lowers the Boom on Tape

If disk-to-disk backup put a nail in the coffin for tape archiving, then another technology -- disk-based archiving -- may help tape's demise even more.

Disk-based archiving leverages disk, as opposed to tape, to provide long-term access to data that has become static but may be needed at some point in the future. Sometimes called disk nearlining, the technique involves using an intelligent disk target device along with "move" commands or off-the-shelf archiving software to move data out of the backup process and onto disk.

The trend is evident in various new products, as well as in homegrown systems in use by various IT organizations. Data Domains recent announcement updating their OS to better support smaller files indicates the reality of data archiving. Suppliers like Copan, EMC, Hitachi, and Permabit also are angling to lead in this space.

At the heart of the trend is the weakness of tape to fulfill the archiving role. That weakness is more significant than the weakness of tape to complete the backup/recover function. Besides making it particularly slow to find and recover single files, tape makes it hard to ensure integrity of data over time, and it is difficult to upgrade between technology generations using tape.

Difficulties are compounded by the fact that most customers used to look at an archive with the thought: “If I can recover it, that’s fine but not a requirement." Now, with regulations and electronic discovery in legal cases becoming commonplace, the need to pull data from that archive is critical, if not required. The ramifications of not being able to recover that data can be costly, both from a public-image perspective and from a financial bottom line perspective. Users can no longer just “hope” that data can be recovered from the archive.

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