Tape Media Independence Protects Investments

Tape Media Independence Protects Investments

By Steve Hodge

Industry pundits have been predicting the death of tape as a backup medium for a number of years. However, tape keeps on reinventing itself. New formats, each offering higher throughput and capacity, keep extending the life of this storage device.

From a user perspective, selecting a backup device and tape format has become increasingly confusing. The trade press is full of articles offering advice on the most suitable tape formats. Some manufacturers would have you believe DLT is better than AIT, while others would have you believe the opposite. Which is better X, Y, or Z? Who cares?

In reality, the tape format is not the critical issue. The vital question is, Which product best suits your business needs?

The priority is achieving maximum flexibility over the way data is handled, both on-line and off-line. The ability to analyze data quickly, accurately, and in a number of different ways has become the real tool of competitive advantage.

Systems need to be implemented that will allow users to qualify and filter data. Ever-expanding volumes of business critical data must be rapidly identified, stored, and retained on-line or near on-line and backed up automatically. Simultaneously, the backup window is shrinking, placing pressure on IT departments to do more in less time.

A variety of tape libraries offer media independence, which allows users to purchase libraries with one type of drive today, but with the ability to upgrade it to a different type of drive in the future. Migration facilities are also available, enabling users to move data stored on legacy formats into new formats.

The ability to consolidate historical data is a major benefit, overcoming the problem of what to do with racks of tapes that need to be retained for future reference.

Some libraries can be configured with multiple tape drives, each with a dedicated loader mechanism, which eliminates a single point of failure. Multiple drives also significantly improve throughput. With the ever-lengthening workday, this is critical. Faster throughput is necessary to ensure the volume of data can be backed up in the available time slot.

Recognizing that data and information are becoming competitive tools and are a means of business differentiation, organizations need to make decisions based on the business benefits of a particular format, and not simply on the tape format itself.

Tape will be around for many years, and many new formats will certainly emerge. As manufacturers compete to increase tape capacity and throughput, some formats will not be backward compatible with the tapes and drives being using today. Media independence is one way of protecting your investment over the short- and long-term.

Steve Hodge is vice president of marketing at MediaLogic Inc., in Plainville, MA.

This article was originally published on August 01, 1998