Computer Technology

the hat should come as no surprise. After all, tape offers interchangeable media, limitless storage capacity, long-term investment protection, and the lowest cost per MB of storage than any other medium. It’s an essential and necessary element to storage planning efforts and is considered a necessary, accountable, and economical complement to a disk-based storage strategy.

It’s not tape or disk; it’s tape and disk.

Until now, the vast majority of data today has been categorized simply into “offline” and “online.” The emerging data protection category represents the middle ground. This new category has driven the need for a new classification of data.

Now there are three kinds of data: hot, warm, and cold. Hot data is-well, hot-requiring immediate access in high performance, highly available, demanding environments. Fast disk subsystems fit the bill here. Warm data resides in nearline or online backup environments, where users need quick, but less frequent access. The cheaper disk works in nearline environments, and library-based tape also works well in nearline and online data backups. Cold data, which should be archived but protected, is eminently suited to tape. Data warehousing, legal considerations, and government regulations require long-term data retention. This archived data must remain accessible on extremely reliable and long-lived media, and this means tape.

Using and protecting hot, warm, and cold data requires a combination of disk and tape. For example, disk serves well in high-transaction environments such as eCommerce applications. Here the database server needs uninterrupted speed to process orders, check inventory, authorize credit, and arrange shipping-and it needs to do it fast, or the online customer is history. The data must flow uninterrupted, from the fastest possible medium, which, in this case, is a disk on the primary database system.

And that very same e-commerce system also needs tape to protect its data, or that fast disk might as well be a Frisbee. The application needs tape for business continuity-for online backups, for nearline migration, and for long-term archiving. Tape, with its excellent price point, large areal density, reliable performance, and robust automation, is perfectly suited to backups of all kinds: online, nearline, and offline for small, medium, and large volumes of data.

Disk also plays an important role in data protection by providing secondary systems for failover operations. This data protection strategy requires a similar system to the primary host and its storage. Data from the primary system mirrors the secondary system, whether locally or remotely. This high availability strategy protects the company against the primary server going down by ensuring that the secondary system can immediately replace primary system processing.

However, a full 60 percent of data loss occurs not from primary processing failure but from other problems-human error, viruses, theft, sabotage, and physical disasters that wipe out local, metro and regional backup application servers. In these cases, the mirrored disk is no help at all: If your data has been deleted or corrupted, guess what mirrors your secondary system? That’s right-empty or corrupted data. To reliably restore data, in these cases, you need tape backup.

When comparing the cost of tape and disk systems, calculations must factor in the tape system, not just the media. For example, one SDLT cartridge holds 320GB of compressed data and, when placing a cartridge into even a small library (such as an 8-cartridge autoloader), the customer can achieve up to 1.8TB capacity at a price point of around half a cent per megabyte (MB). Comparable capacity disk drives start around two cents a megabyte and go up from there, making it economically necessary to have a strategy that includes both tape and disk storage. Both, after all, serve different data needs and configurations.

One common concern about tape is in regard to its greatest strength: users feared tape backups would take too long, given growing data volumes and narrowing backup windows. However, tape areal density has grown rapidly-far more rapidly than some would have expected. In addition, important advances in recording have led to significant capacity gains and performance improvements, while related tape technologies such as faster tape drives, sophisticated robotics, and stronger ISV software offerings are significantly increasing performance. The tape is extremely robust and reliable, and new data integrity formulations mean that firms can effectively use tape for specialized recording needs, including those needed for SEC compliance.

Tape technologies are as robust as ever, responding to customer demands for higher performance, capacity, scalability, and reliability in storage environments. Tape’s continued strong showing also points to better value, higher capacity, faster data transfer rates, quicker access, automated media handling, network attachment, and format simplification.

One chief concern that is most likely boosting tape solution sales is disaster recovery. On March 4, 2003, Gartner/Dataquest IT services group released a survey based on data collected from respondents in November 2002 which showed that nearly 33 percent of US corporations stand to lose significant amounts of data, should a natural or man-made disaster occur.

With today’s ever-present vigil on political, financial, and social turmoil, companies have raced to protect their data using storage solutions that are fast, reliable, and removable-while cutting costs. The most complete solution that encompasses consistency, reliability, portability, durability and security is tape.

As customers look to enhance their data protection processes, they will continue to use tape as the bedrock of safety while improving the systems that contribute to assuring customer protection. Today’s leading data protection companies are expanding their offerings to make the data protection process a trusted guardian of their customer’s prized information assets.