Turns Out, Tape Doesn’t Suck.

By Michael
March 10, 2011

I recently came across a blog post exploring the merits of tape vs. disk data storage. The post referenced a rather bold marketing slogan launched in the mid-2000s by a data deduplication vendor trying to convert the technology world from tape to disk: “Tape Sucks, Move On.” I understand the provider was even handing out bumper stickers back then emblazoned with this slogan.

As I was reminded of this campaign, it really struck me how untrue this prediction that disk would reign supreme and tape would die out—which seemed so certain to many at the time—has proven to be, some 5+ years later. And here’s why.

Tape_doesn't_suck

#1: Tape doesn’t suck.
Obviously, as a provider of tape management solutions for many highly satisfied customers, we’re going to take this stance. But the data also speaks for itself. The advantages of tape, enumerated in detail by the post at Enterprise IT Planet, include cost-efficiency (especially over the long term), portability, longevity and ability to quickly store and restore large files. So, while tape isn’t the answer to every storage need, these attributes make tape well suited for many environments and uses—which brings me to the second part of that bold marketing statement…

#2: The world hasn’t “moved on.”
Tape remains a critical part of a well-planned storage solution for many organizations. In fact, when 40,000 Gmail users logged in recently to find their e-mail accounts empty thanks to a software bug that affected disk-stored data in multiple data centers, it was tape that saved the day at Google.

As this example shows, the tape vs. disk debate is no longer an “either/or” proposition. Tape has an important role as part of a tiered storage solution and works best in many environments and situations—for instance, for long-term records retention where the time required to access the data is not an issue. Tape can ease large-scale data movements in disaster recovery or data center moves. From an audit perspective, it securely and verifiably keeps your data accountable and under your sole control. So, the question is not about eliminating tape, but about understanding your storage needs and having a strategy that uses the right mix of approaches and media to meet your objectives.

While tape sales certainly have declined and disk usage has no doubt grown over these past 5+ years, tape shows no signs of disappearing. With this in mind, I propose a new slogan:

“Tape Has Its Strengths – Incorporate It Intelligently into Your Storage Strategy.”

That’s not quite as catchy as that old slogan (and may not fit on a bumper sticker), but it’s a much more accurate reflection today’s tape/disk reality.

2 Comments

  1. We’re continually evangelising the value of tape to our customers at the systems integrator I currently work for. I’m still a firm believer in use of tape as your final guarantee against data loss.
    Use of tape should of course be linked to a data management strategy centred on classification of data that needs to be protected and archival/HSM solutions to minimise tape footprint, shrink backup windows and reduce the TCO of tape. @davidchapa’s recent article on choosing what data you should protect is great advice here ->

  2. Rowan, that is exactly the point. Well said. Tape definitely has a place in the life cycle of data, and we see it many times, for large enterprises, in their archival needs.
    In fact, we talk to clients frequently about reducing their backup windows by using our Archived Data Manager in which older backup images—usually used primarily for audit and compliancy—are archived. Only recent backups—used primarily for recovery—remain.
    http://www.bandl.com/save90.html
    The results are much quicker backups.
    Thanks again for the commnet & I’ll definitely check out David’s post.

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