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Tape Triumphs Despite Bad Rap

SAN DIEGO -- Storage Networking World -- Tape was prominent at this week's SNW trade show in San Diego, contesting claims that it's being displaced by disk.

"Tape is one of those zombie technologies that's not going away," says analyst Greg Schulz of the StorageIO consultancy. (See Zombies on the Move.) "Disk vendors say it has a high failure rate on restore, tape vendors say it's great. The truth is somewhere in the middle."

Empirical evidence of the two-sided tape story was everywhere this week. One day, in a talk on its Backup Exec System Recovery product, Symantec claimed that restoring data from tape fails more than 50 percent of the time. A subsequent query at Sun's booth turned up the comment that tape restorals are more like 90 percent successful, and it's easy to create multiple copies if you're insecure.

Vendor claims aside, news at the show revealed tape's ongoing presence in backup and archiving:

  • Dell debuted the PowerVault LTO-4-120, based on the Linear Tape Open-4 format, which at 800 Gbytes doubles the vendor's drive capacity. This reduces backup windows by 33 percent, the vendor claims. Pricing for the drive starts at $4,000 and for the media, $200. (See Dell Delivers LTO-4.)
  • Spectra Logic unveiled a line of secondary storage servers that allow customers to move right from disk to tape (presumably, the vendor's own tape libraries) without taking an interim step to virtual tape libraries. Priced from $11,995 to $100,000, the archive/backup servers support RAID 6 and feature hot swapping of individual disks without disrupting storage blades. (See Spectra Logic Intros NTier.)
  • As part of a product preview, Arkeia discussed an upcoming 2U EdgeFort 200 device, containing both disk and tape for backup. (See SNW: First Take.) Priced between $6,000 and $8,000, the model is part of Arkeia's push toward "federated data protection appliances."
  • Crossroads Systems added a tape encryption appliance called Strongbox TapeSentry to its lineup of products, which it says are OEM'd by EMC, HP, Quantum, and Sun. (See Crossroads Intros TapeSentry.) The block-based appliance supports AES 256 encryption and proprietary access control. Crossroads says a centralized key management add-on is coming within a couple of months. The new wares are meant to compliment the supplier's ReadVerify Appliance, which tracks tape performance and utilization. ReadVerify 2.0, due out this fall, will archive tape and verify that it is readable. The TapeSentry appliances are priced from $25,500; ReadVerify from $14,000 for a 100-slot library.
  • Overland Storage unveiled a 38-Tbyte tape library called the ARCvault 48 for backup and recovery. Priced from $13,500, the 4U library features up to four LTO-3 tape drives and supports Fibre Channel and iSCSI connectivity.
  • And yesterday Imation said it will spend $300 million to purchase TDK, in part to advance development of tape technology. (See Imation to Acquire TDK.)

All this points to a robust market, one in which vendors are determined to overcome traditional gripes about tape -- costly and vulnerable media, unreliability in terms of restoral, slow data backup and retrieval, and so forth.

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