Data Storage: No, Tape Isn't Dead

Posted on October 14, 2013 By Henry Newman

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I've seen a number of articles in trade magazines stating that tape is not dead. The articles include:

Tape Never Died, It Was Just Resting

Cloud Backup vs. Tape: Think Hybrid

Hadoop, Web 2.0 Get Path to Tape for Cheap Long-Term Storage

Even 6 months ago there were few if any articles on tape in the mainstream tech media, yet today I'm seeing at least an article per week and sometime more. It could be because a few vendors have released products. But I think that the real reason is that there is more interest in tape given that there has not been any increase in disk storage density in over a 18 months, while during the same period there has been a significant increase in tape density from both LTO and Oracle. And we are all waiting for the IBM announcement on their density increases.

Disk drive density growth is slowing and costs for current drives are not dropping anywhere near as fast as data is growing. This is forcing companies to look at other alternatives for long term storage for data (data that is not accessed often) given the cost of disk drives and available density. There has been lots of industry speculation on future disk drives density but none of the speculation has disk drives doubling in density in 2014, which I think is good news for the tape vendors.

So will tape make a resurgence or is the industry hype a short term flash? (Forgive the pun). I think the answer depends on what happens in two areas. First, if HAMR (Heat Assisted Magnetic Record) disks come out in 2015 with huge density increases then it could be a flash. On the other hand if it does not come out or the density increase are modest, tape will continue to grow.

The second potential is if a technology comes out that provides an alternative to tape with high reliability like tape and low cost. The candidate today is holographic storage. Without either of the two happening tape will continue to resurge given the cost of data needs to go down.


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