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Tape Summit Predicts Tape Renaissance

Summing up the recent Tape Summit in Nevada, the basic message was that tape is not only about to see a resurgence but rather a renaissance. This would seem to be counter-intuitive to many, but the claim has merit. Let's explore that and see why, since IT will be the major benefactor if the claim can be proven.

Tape Summit 2011, an inaugural meeting of vendors that are involved with some aspect of tape, as well as analysts and press who are very familiar with the tape market, was held recently in Las Vegas, Nevada. It occurred late in the week of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) meeting, as many of the same vendors also attended that show. There was a natural bias toward tape, but also note that vendors, such as HP, IBM, and Quantum, sell both disk and tape. So although the merits of tape were stressed, participants had a realistic view of the role of disk in the greater storage market.

My memory may be wrong, but I think that it was Ed Childers of IBM (since the example related to IBM) who documented that the first claim that "Tape is dead" occurred in 1961! So we are now celebrating the 50th anniversary of the reputed death of tape. While those claims are as spurious today as they were then, the markets for tape have certainly narrowed during the past five decades. The two primary uses of tape today are backup and archiving, and both are being targeted by disk vendors.

In the former market, disk to disk backup solutions are becoming more popular, especially those using data deduplication. There are a number of good reasons why disk is taking a stronger role as the first line of defense, which have led many to predict that tape will no longer have any role in backup. This simply isn't true.

Jonathan Marianu, an AT&T Storage Planning and Design Architect, took both disk and tape to task in his enormous backup world. He uses disk with data deduplication, but he also uses an enormous amount of tape. One reason is that there is not enough bandwidth to copy data over a network to a disaster recovery facility. Given the business that AT&T is in, that says a lot.

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