How do companies deal with a growing avalanche of data? Is the tape really dead?

Joe Fagan, Senior Director, Cloud Initiatives, EMEA, Seagate Technology

1. Is there a place for tape drives in the era of cloud storage, virtualization, and solid state memory?

One of the reasons many companies and organizations continue to use tape drives for backup, disaster recovery, and long-term data storage is because this technology provides additional security guarantees. However, this approach requires increased costs for the management, transportation and storage of tape media. In addition, the tape can be a problem with long-term data storage, because many organizations must have access to archives for 15 or even 30 years.
This is partly why the reasons for using tape media are becoming less and less. New technologies that offer increased flexibility, reliability, access speed and lower cost of ownership replace tape as backup storage. Most restorations are performed from actual backups, therefore it is more convenient and cheaper to use specialized devices or stand-alone network drives (D2D backup) to store them. Then, if necessary, the backup copy can be moved to another device or to the cloud storage.

The tape cannot compete with the drive as a backup media for disaster recovery. Network storage is much more attractive.

The use of the tape as a “cold” storage also causes problems, since the access time it provides, especially for random read and write operations, is completely unacceptable in modern conditions. Increasing disk storage capacities and technologies such as Shingled Magnetic Recording or Seagate's Kinetic Storage platform allow storage makers, cloud service providers and companies to build much more productive and cost-effective cold storage.

If you need a very long-term storage of large volumes of information, for example, for fifty or a hundred years, optical disks become the most affordable and reliable medium, but the transition to them is limited by the high price.

Tape remains the best solution for the average duration of storage of very large volumes (up to 15 years with the recommended 12-30 years). In such cases, the data is recorded once and most likely will never be needed for reading, and the access time, calculated in hours and days, can be considered acceptable. Of course, if it is possible to store tapes in specialized darkened rooms with temperature and humidity control without the cost of supporting rewinding equipment, then for some specific tasks their advantages will outweigh the many advantages of alternative carriers. However, companies are increasingly switching to other technologies to meet the ever-changing storage requirements and optimize costs.

2. Does the tape have a future in backup and recovery?

Today, tape is one of the main storage media for backups. However, redundancy requirements are constantly growing, and this technology is no longer the best solution. As the amount of data generated by companies increases, the size of tape libraries becomes a problem, even despite the increase in recording density and their automation.
Since Seagate created its first hard drive in 1979, the industry has evolved roughly in accordance with Moore’s Law: every two years, hard drives doubled in volume and at the same time halved in price, while not increasing in size. However, increasing the recording density of a ferromagnet can no longer be a way to increase the capacity of devices. Fortunately, the inability to meet demand through traditional approaches will necessarily lead to the emergence of new technologies. Some we can already see.
Scientists and engineers have done a great job to extend the electronics age as long as possible and to create completely new methods for storing information: from breakthroughs in the production of effective random access memory (RRAM) to Seagate's developed technology of thermomagnetic recording (HAMR) and stunningly complex DNA storages. Already implemented and future innovations, perhaps, will allow humanity to close the emerging gap between the available and necessary volumes of data storage.
Meanwhile, companies and IT managers must consider their storage needs in both long-term and short-term planning, because in order to get the most out of the gigantic masses of information, they must be accessible and easily manageable with low maintenance costs.

3. Tape drives continue to prevail despite allegations of high cost, lack of flexibility, and being outdated. Why do they remain in demand and to what extent do you agree with these statements?

While maintaining the growth rate of big data in two years, the storage needs will exceed the available production capacities. This is a very important issue that requires attention from ordinary consumers, companies and government agencies. The modern world relies heavily on our ability to store and provide important information on demand both online and offline, and the amount of data accumulated and used annually will grow exponentially over the next ten years.
New developments, such as HAMR, will play an important role in bridging the gap between demand and storage capacity. Probably, HAMR will allow increasing the density limit of magnetic recording, and hence the storage capacity, by 100 times. This will make it possible to create hard drives with a density of up to 50 Tbit per square inch, that is, soon all books written by mankind can be accommodated on 20 hard drives with HAMR technology. Seagate has become the world's largest investor in the development of HAMR technology and plans to introduce it in 2016.

4. Cloud storage can boast low or zero initial investment, but when it comes to total cost of ownership, is tape still the most cost-effective option?

No need to send recorded tapes to corporate or external libraries for storage provides significant savings and makes cloud storage more attractive in terms of total cost of ownership. The exponential growth in data volumes forces companies to think more and more about lowering storage costs, and the industry to work on innovations that increase storage efficiency and reduce overall costs in this area.

Increasing efficiency is possible not only through improving the drives themselves. Sometimes changing the storage architecture allows significant progress. Recently, Seagate launched the Kinetic Open Storage platform, which offers a different mechanism for connecting object storage. This is a new class of Ethernet drives for storage at the level of key-value pairs in combination with development tools, including an open programming interface (API) and corresponding libraries. This change in architecture has provided a phenomenal increase in storage system efficiency by eliminating legacy software and hardware and a traditional storage server.

In addition to the new level of efficiency provided by technologies such as the Kinetic Open Storage platform, large companies and organizations continue to use a variety of media - from DRAM, SSD, flash drives to several classes of hard drives, optical and tape drives to achieve optimal performance. Provide the necessary reliability and performance while minimizing costs.

Also popular now: