Can Tape Storage Save Us From The Zettabyte Apocalypse?
The next four years will see the addition of between 40
to 60 zettabytes of new data to the digital information
burgeon. Each zettabyte equals 1000 exabytes or one
billion terabytes. That’s a lot of bits, and they’ll all be
seeking a home that is durable and affordable. So what
are the options for storing all of these zettabytes?
Disk storage is no longer growing its capacity at a
sufficient rate or with the affordability characteristics
that will make it suitable for zettabyte storage, at least
according to Microsoft. Moreover, even as innovations
come on line to expand capacity, the total manufacturing
capability of the disk industry will not be able to keep
pace with data growth.
So, we are left with one remaining digital medium to
catch the tremendous influx of data that analysts are
predicting. That medium is tape. Here are five reasons
why tape storage is the best way to manage the coming
1.Tape Plays Nice
Tape is a technology that has been relegated to the
history books many times, but it continues to enjoy
fairly widespread adoption. Two of the three “industrial
farmers” of the Cloud world, Google and Microsoft,
admit to using tape in their storage infrastructure and
to having big plans for tape storage going forward. So,
increasingly, when you talk cloud storage, you will likely
be talking about tape.
2.Tape Is Resilient
The problems that most anti-tapers cite when deriding
the technology are mostly misguided. Contrary to the
hyperbolistic (and now recanted) statements of analysts
in the late 1990s, tape is not more prone to failure than
other storage media and is, in fact, among the most
resilient. With a non-recoverable bit error rate that is an
order of magnitude less than SATA hard disks and on par
with the best flash memory in the market today, tape is
very reliable. And because of improvements in substrate
materials and coatings, the durability of tape storage is
about 30 years – much more than flash, disk or optical.
3.Tape Is Growing In Capacity
Tape storage is growing its capacity by leaps and bounds.
Owing to Barium Ferrite (BaFe) coatings, which replace
metal particle tape coatings of the past and enable a
variation of perpendicular magnetic recording on tape
media that rivals PMR on disk, tape has a long runway
of capacity improvements ahead. The Linear Tape
Open (LTO) roadmap currently goes out to 120TB of
compressed capacity per tape. This is actually a modest
projection since demonstrations have been made of BaFe
cartridges with 220TB raw (uncompressed) capacity
within the last year, courtesy of Fujifilm and IBM.
4.Tape Is Enhanced With Ltfs
Tape technology has been further enhanced by the
Linear Tape File System (LTFS) tecvhnology from IBM,
which has been standardised by the Storage Networking
Industry Association. LTFS provides a way to bridge
transparently the file systems (and object storage
systems) of the flash and disk world to tape, enabling files
and objects to be stored to and retrieved from tape in
much the same way as they are from a USB drive or disk
drive. This usability improvement mitigates the retraining
requirements that may be created by reintroducing tape
into a central storage role. It also helps to eliminate the
need for problematic backup software which has long
been the source of the acid indigestion that operators
blamed on tape technology to begin with.
5.Tape Will Be Required
If zettabytes are to be stored cost-effectively, tape will
be required. This simple conclusion has been reached
by leading cloud vendors and by a growing number of
enterprises, especially those considering hybrid cloud
architectures (“build your base, buy your burst” applied
to storage and processing technology). Only tape can be
manufactured in sufficient quantity to handle a 40 to 60
ZB spike in storage capacity demand by 2020.
For more information about how you can set a plan for
the zettabyte apocalypse before it happens,
listen to a recent podcast discussion on this topic.