…but tape library market remains healthy

By Heidi Biggar

Despite increasing use of disk in secondary storage environments, particularly for backup/recovery, Ojai, CA-based Freeman Reports says there is little, if any, evidence of a significant shift away from tape to disk among users.

“I wouldn’t describe it as a shift from tape but rather as a movement to include disk in the general secondary [data-protection process], in particular for backup,” says Bob Abraham, author of the recently released Freeman Report, Tape Library Outlook 2005.

In fact, tape library revenue was up 13.5% last year and is expected to increase 7% this year, largely on the strength of sales of LTO drives/libraries in the midrange, according to the Freeman report (see figure). Library unit shipments are expected to increase 10% this year.

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Although disk-to-disk (D2D) backup is increasingly being used to supplement tape to improve both backup-and-recovery efficiency (see article, above), Abraham estimates that only 5% to 8% of users are using disk exclusively for secondary data protection, a percentage that hasn’t changed significantly since D2D backup came on the scene a couple of years ago.

“It’s undeniable that users are implementing disk for data-protection purposes, but the number of users who have actually abandoned tape for disk remains in single-digit percentages,” says Abraham.

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Abraham says that while he expects tape to continue to be a strong force in backup for the foreseeable future, he believes its future strength lies with the booming data archival market. “The real opportunity for tape is with long-term data archival, which is totally unaffected by disk-based backup,” he explains.

Regulatory compliance and information life-cycle management (ILM) are the two biggest drivers of new market opportunities for tape technology, according to Abraham.

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As for disk-based options such as content-addressable storage (CAS) for data archival, Abraham says that potential issues with cost, scalability, and data recoverability could ultimately limit the market penetration of non-tape-based technologies. “Higher-end CAS systems can be as much as 3x to 5x more expensive than tape options, while the usefulness of lower-end CAS products for long-term storage is limited due to potential scaling issues,” says Abraham. “Also, proprietary CAS systems may present a problem for long-term storage: Will data stored on these systems be readable in 10 years?”

From a tape format perspective, LTO continues to rule the roost, with Freeman reporting strong sales in all LTO categories. Overall, LTO library shipments increased 28% last year to 45,568 units while revenue surged 23% to $985 million. This compares to DLT/SDLT libraries, which had another down year. For example, revenue for DLT/SDLT libraries slid 37% to $142 million, while shipments fell 44% to 10,027 units (see figure on p. 1).

This article was originally published on July 01, 2005