Mainframe tape technology is alive and thriving in the data center as organizations discover new ways to leverage tape in the context of their overall storage management strategies. This article explores some common myths regarding tape usage and suggests specific ways to improve the effectiveness and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of tape storage. According to Fred Moore, president of Horison Information Systems, a Boulder, CO-based information strategies consulting firm, tape usage goes beyond backup and recovery. Tape storage also is being used to address regulatory compliance, archival storage, risk management, and other issues.
Unfortunately, many IT organizations are still laboring under several popular myths concerning tape. By replacing these myths with the corresponding realities and best practices, these organizations can significantly improve their data management and operational efficiency—which is important as they grapple with a growing volume of information across the enterprise and budgets that don’t necessary grow at the same pace.
Tape Management Myths and Realities
Myth 1: Tapes have a high TCO.
Reality: Optimization and automation of tape assets can yield significant cost savings, save time and resources, and reduce overall tape TCO. Underutilization of tape, in particular, is the main driver to high TCO.
Best practice: Virtual tape technology can reduce physical tape media requirements as utilization of physical tape capacity nears 100 percent. By managing fewer physical tapes, IT organizations can reduce floor space requirements, minimize manual tape handling and get maximum value from their investments in tape media and devices. Automation also ensures accuracy, saves time and improves productivity and effectiveness.
Myth 2: Tape capacity isn’t keeping up with demand. Reality: Tape capacities have continuously increased and will soon exceed 1TB uncompressed.
Best practice: Increasing effective storage utilization rates maximizes the returned value and useful life of tape media investments and can yield significant media cost savings. This can help eliminate or defer hardware purchases, while reducing the floor space needed for hardware. Less hardware results in lower environmental, vaulting and transportation costs.
Myth 3: Tape media and drive reliability are a problem.
Reality: Both tape media and drives have shown consistent improvements in life expectancy and Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). Tape media life expectancy is now beyond 15 years and drives are rated into several hundred-thousands of hours. Transfer rates also have improved throughput performance. While IT decision-makers can feel safe knowing that media will enjoy a long shelf life, the retention of older technology is only financially prudent to a point. IT organizations ultimately must decide whether to keep older devices or implement potentially large migration projects to replace both media and devices.