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Tape May Still Have a Role to Play in Your Data Storage Strategy

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Organizations are using the latest flash, object and cloud storage technologies to keep up with rampant data growth. But there’s one decades-old storage platform that has remained remarkably dependable throughout all of this technology change. Tape still offers a number of benefits when it comes to backup, archival and other bulk storage of data.

According to Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), the cost per gigabyte of tape storage is less than a penny, compared to about three cents for hard disk storage. Tape is also cheaper than cloud storage. Hardware, software, media and operational costs are all lower with tape. Furthermore, tape has a smaller footprint and uses considerably less power than disk. n a 10-year total cost of ownership (TCO) study, ESG found that an LTO solution cost just 14 percent as much as an all-disk architecture, and 17 percent as much as a hybrid disk/cloud architecture.

Density is one of tape’s key value propositions. Enterprise-class tape drives based upon seventh-generation Linear Tape Open (LTO) Ultrium technology provide capacity of up to 16TB of compressed data.

Longevity is another benefit of tape. LTO tape media has a lifespan of 30 years or more, with the average tape drive lasting nearly 10 years. By comparison, the average disk lasts only about four years. ESG conducted a lab audit of LTO-7 drives and media and found them to be many times more reliable than disk.

Many people cling to the notion that tape is too slow to be useful in today’s IT environment. However, LTO-7 provides compressed data transfer rates of up to 750MB per second — more than 2.7TB per hour.

Tape has also gotten smarter. Linear Tape File System (LTFS) allows tape data to be read as just another drive on a network. Users can drag and drop files to tape and can see a list of saved files using an operating system directory. LTFS is an open standard supported by LTO drives from any manufacturer.

By making it possible to manipulate files on tape just as you would with disk, LTFS allows organizations to use tape for more than backup and archival. Tape becomes part of an “active” archival infrastructure in which data can be moved to the most cost-effective storage tier at any time. As a result, tape is increasingly used for audio/video and surveillance data, and in big data and regulatory compliance use cases.

The LTO standard continues to advance. The LTO Consortium recently finalized the LTO-8 specification, and announced plans for the development of the ninth through 12th generations of the technology. LTO-12 is slated for release sometime in 2020.

IBM has already introduced a new tape drive based upon LTO-8, which offers compressed capacity of up to 30TB (12TB native) and compressed data transfer rates of up to 900MB per second (360MB per second native). The drive comes with AME and AES-256 encryption and write-one-read-many (WORM) capabilities for data protection, and is compatible with LTO-7 media. The cost per gigabyte is less than half a penny.

Tape’s low cost, ease of use and portability have always made it a good choice for long-term backup. However, innovations over the past several years have yielded unprecedented capacity increases and vastly superior economics compared to other technologies. Let Technologent help you determine if tape has a role to play in your storage environment.

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