SNW Europe 2010: Tape isn't dead yet

Some of the big guns in the tech industry are still fighting for tape's survival as an integral part of storage solutions.


The phrase "tape is dead" has been bandied around plenty of times in recent years, with many wanting to replace the technology with spinning disks or online backup.

However, some companies are still investing in what many see as yesterday's storage technology.

Ultrium LTO, the authors of standards for the tape industry made up by HP, IBM and Quantum, are leading the charge to fight for the importance of tape in storage infrastructures.

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Bruce Master, senior program manager at IBM and an LTO representative, told IT PRO during an interview at SNW Europe 2010: "We have heard over the last two years comments about 'don't use tape, tape is dead' [and] we chuckle a little bit at that."

"It seems like those messages are really coming from companies or vendors that don't sell tape."

He didn't claim tape was the only way but said it was important as part of the bigger storage picture.

"There is still a lot of very informed and data security aware customers that implement a multi-faceted approach to handling their storage issues," said Master.

"With HP, IBM and Quantum, we sell disk to disk, virtual tape libraries, data deduplication, tape, we sell the whole tool kit. Some companies profess a hammer is all you need for everything. You cant build a house with a hammer, you need a variety of tools and it is same thing with storage, you need a balanced diet if you will to address storage issues."

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There is no question that these vendors still make a lot of money out of selling tape and the latest IDC research on the market showed it still brought in revenues of nearly $3 billion.

But Master went further, claiming the need for offline storage was imperative and tape was still the best option.

"Today it is the most viable form of offline portable storage and offline is a key element," he said.

"Data is at risk from a variety of attacks and if it is online, even if it is replicated disk that is still online, and a clever hacker, a virus, a system error or even a disgruntled employee that has passwords could get at both sites and destroy data."

"The way to protect that is having some form of storage that is offline, isolated from the system, cant get at it through electricity and today tape is the best form of offline storage that there is and it will be for the foreseeable future," he added.

Masters conceded this might now always be the case, but predicted it would remain this way for "at least another decade or two."

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