IT Management

Tape: A Collapsing Star

5 Pages

From the early ’50s until the late ’90s, the volume of data made sense for tape technology. However, for the volume occurring now and what’s anticipated, tape can’t reasonably sustain the value it once held.

Hollerith or IBM card punch readers disappeared from the data center in the ’80s as data volumes grew faster and larger than what that device could reasonably sustain. Similarly, tape is near the end of its useful life as active media. It may still exist to be tucked away inside a mountain, or for data portability, but even those uses will diminish. Environmental issues associated with tape are problematic and communications bandwidth growth will someday soon remove the need to truck a tape to a remote location.


From a business perspective, backups are important, but restores are everything. From an operational perspective, backup is easy and recovery is hard. However, those that deal with the rigors of day-to-day backup issues may feel otherwise. Tape and, in particular, backups have always been an administrative challenge. Tape was positioned for years as the least expensive alternative in an expanding universe of data, but price per byte stored isn’t the only important factor.

Unless you have the latest, high-end tape transport and library, reliability issues are expected and management is complex when using tape. You need many transports and libraries to stand a chance of getting nightly backups done. And then there’s the high cost of the media. Every couple of years, as new transports are announced, you discover the old media will no longer work, and all of it has to be replaced. That’s expensive and disruptive.

Unless you can afford a large library capable of storing the incremental amount of data required for ongoing protection, your tape media is at risk from environmental issues and mishandling when tapes are ejected from a library. Cartridge reliability is an issue, and so is the potential for lost or damaged media.

When you consider these issues, the price per byte stored on tape becomes far more expensive than the base measurement. Moreover, issues associated with the operations of tape are numerous; they include reliability, performance, network connectivity, resource conflicts, scheduling, media management, and more. Using disk as a library alternative offers a flexible, reliable, high-performance, efficient solution.

Simplify and Save

Features from backup software vendors have made backup to disk a logical choice for simple and flexible backup and recovery. For applications such as VMware, Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, protection recoverability and performance are key. While tape is still used, it’s rare to see it used exclusively today. The benefits of Disk-to-Disk (D2D) are great, which is why at least 70 percent of all backups are first written to disk.

Speed Matters 

5 Pages