Commentary
12/16/2009
07:38 PM

Tape-Based Storage: Not Dead Yet!

Is tape dying as a long-term storage medium? It depends upon whom you ask -- although it is significant that this is even an open question.



Is tape dying as a long-term storage medium? It depends upon whom you ask -- although it is significant that this is even an open question.A recent SearchStorage.com article looks at the impact that data deduplication technology is having on companies' backup and recovery strategies. No one, it seems, argues that dedupe tools are combining with ever-cheaper disk storage to push tape closer to the sidelines.

Not everyone, however, thinks tape is going to leave the game entirely. One vendor cited in the article argues that tape will remain cost-effective for companies that must comply with multi-year data retention policies. The health care industry is a classic example of this scenario, although there are certainly many others.

Other companies appear willing to stick with tape for long-term archiving simply because it is "tried and tested." Even those that implement dedupe technology may still value the fact that tape archives are extremely easy to lock down in off-site, highly secure storage facilities.

Reliability, however, is the flip side of the security coin. And it is clear that many firms are tired of rolling the dice every time they need to recover data from a tape archive: Some users are moving ahead on getting rid of tape completely. "We're targeting total tape elimination by this year," said Michael Passe, storage architect of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He said that considering the dropping costs of disk now that they're deduping, "it's in the cents per gig range which is approaching tape costs." And "tapes break, tapes don't work. With the tape issues it kind of negates the cost difference between tape and Data Domain," said Passe. "It's kind of an intangible amount of dollars of not having data exposed, not having to truck tapes around." Clearly, not everyone agrees on just what "security" means when it comes to long-term data archiving.

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I'm prepared to agree with the article's premise: Tape is still alive and well, even if it is keeping a much lower profile these days. Yet the very fact that so many companies are willing to dump tape entirely in favor of disk-based storage and dedupe tools is extremely interesting.

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