How Tape Storage is Changing Data Centers as We Know Them

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tape changing data centers

As the advancements in cloud computing continue to rise, many have come to believe that the so-called “archaic” methods of tape storage are dead. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Tape forges ahead, setting the standards for the data storage industry. Several new developments in the tape storage industry were revealed last year that have increased tape’s value proposition.

These ground-breaking technologies have made substantial surges in tape’s capacity and long-term storage capabilities.

Seeing as how tape capacity continues to grow with the ever-increasing need for data storage, lots of companies are choosing tape due to its affordability and secure means of data protection.

In fact, over the past decade, LTO tape has increased capacity by 1,400 percent, performance 200 percent, and reliability 9,900 percent.

4 Ways Tape Storage Has Progressed

IBM announced the TS1155 enterprise tape drive with a native capacity of 15 TB (45 TB compressed).

Linear Tape File System (LTFS) partners with OpenStack Swift creating the pathway for a high-latency storage back-end that makes it easier for consumers to transfer bulk information with a Swift data ring.

The LTO Ultrium Generation 8 tape drive was announced. The LTO-8 tape drive doubles the native capacity from its previous generation to 12 TB (30 TB compressed). To put this in perspective, the LTO-8 can hold 7,140,000 photos, 8,000 movies, or 2,880,000 songs.

Type M media was introduced along with the launch of LTO-8 tape drives. Type M media allows unused LTO-7 tapes to increase storage from 6TB to 9TB, when using LTO-8 drives, initializing the LTO-7 media and using a barcode ending with characters “M8.”

Even more so, the LTO Program also unveiled a new LTO technology roadmap The LTO roadmap details descriptions up to 12 generations of LTO tape technology, showing the pathway to storage for each generation of the LTO tapes.

Total data capacity on one LTO-12 tape cartridge is measured up to 480 TB with 2.5x compression – an increase of 32 times the capacity of LTO-7 cartridges.

According to the Tape Storage Council, “The INSIC indicates the current areal density scaling rate of HDD to be about 16 percent CAGR and tape to be at 33 percent CAGR.”

This suggests that the current cost advantage of tape over disk-based storage will grow even broader in the future. By 2025, tape transfer rates are predicted to be five times faster than that of HDDs.

What Does the Future of Tape Storage Hold?

Mass media producers are encouraging innovation with the future of tape as well.

TSC goes on to say, “Recently Sony Corporation, along with IBM Research in Switzerland, demonstrated magnetic tape storage recording areal density at 201Gb/in² which can support the native high-capacity storage of approximately 330TB in a single cartridge. Fujifilm continues to commercialize Barium Ferrite technology for LTO and enterprise tape formats, and has already filed for patents for a new magnetic particle for future generations of tape using Strontium Ferrite (SrFe). Strontium Ferrite will have the potential to store 400 TBs native per cartridge – 67 times more storage capacity than LTO-7.”

It’s very obvious that tape’s increasing cost per gigabyte and total cost of ownership weighed against other storage formats make tape the most cost-effective option for long-term data custody.

The promising financial advantages of tape for storing data are also driving interest in active archive solutions.

By definition, an active archive is a combined solution providing users with an automated means to store and manage all their archive data by integrating HDDs, SSDs, and tape in the data center or cloud.

The active archive significantly advances tape access time by serving as an HDD or SSD cache buffer for a tape library.

The active archive enables a high percentage of accesses to the tape subsystem to be satisfied from SSD or HDDs, improving access time to first byte of data.

The Advantages of Tape Storage

Not only is tape affordable, but it continues to be one of the most secure options in terms of storing vital information.

The tape air gap has sparked a renewed curiosity in tape as a backup medium.

Simply put, an air gap has no electronic connection to the data on the removable tape cartridge, therefore avoiding unauthorized access.

Courtesy: Virtualization Review

In contrast, disk-based storage systems operate online and are extremely susceptible to an attack. The United States DoJ reported an average of 4,000 ransomware attacks per day have been taking place since January 2016.

Currently, it is estimated that the cost of these unwanted attacks was almost $5 billion by December 2017. The frequency and cost associated with these attacks only continues to grow.

The role of tape as a storage medium in the modern-day data center is rapidly growing into new markets because of undeniable technological advancements, monetary benefits, high capacity, security, and consistent reliability.

Tape has become a perfect storage solution for expanding industries such as big data, cloud services, entertainment manufacturers, hyperscale computing, IoT, and surveillance services.

The stable evolution, captivating value, and new storage developments prove that tape is not dead, it is very much still alive.


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