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History of Enterprise Disk to Disk Backup

how the backup market moved from tape to disk - timeline of key events

by Zsolt Kerekes editor of
In the early days of the 20th century it was not clear that the car would eventually replace the horse as the most popular method of powered travel. Horses were cheaper, more familiar and more reliable than the early generation of petrol driven cars.

At the turn of the second millenium the tape backup market had reached a seemingly unassailable position. 3 out of the top 10 fastest growing profitable US storage companies in the first half of 2001 were tape companies:- ADIC (40% revenue growth), Overland (59% revenue growth) and Qualstar (40% revenue growth).

But the widespread corporate adoption of the internet which led to the dotcom bubble was also laying the connection paths for offsite backup and replication technologies which would soon cure the compulsive obsession of manually removing storage media offsite.

In 2006 the tape market saw its steepest ever decline in suppliers with mergers and acquisitions shrinking the supplier base. The death rattle of the tape backup market has been heard, although it may survive as a static niche market for a few more years.

This timeline plots the main markers for the decline of tape and the storage market switch to D2d.

1987 - the world's first NAS company Auspex Systems is founded. Their first servers were listed in our SPARC Product Directory in 1992. But it took the industry many years to realise that these products were a new type of storage server rather than platforms for databases and web servers.

1994 -'s publisher publishes the first directory of fibre-channel adapters. That was the start of the network storage market which would later be called SANs. The market was hotly contested - and in 1996/97 there were far more oems making FC adapters than there are today. Many of them advertised in our online directory.

1997 -'s publisher creates an online directory of RAID systems.

March 2000 - created a dedicated web page for online backup and storage. By this time the internet infrastructure, beefed up to host corporate websites for the dotcom economy was sufficiently well established to make internet backup technically viable. Before this era - this type of offsite online backup was restricted to big corporations with leased data lines using proprietary technology.

2000 - FalconStor Software is founded. The company would later become an important enabler for white box storage oems entering the virtual tape market.

August 2000 - An article called - the Return of Removable Hard Disk Drive Architecture - summarised the state of the art in SMB disk backup with a comparison of removable storage devices from leading vendors.

December 2000 - NAS climbs to equal place with SAN to reach #5 in popularity with's readers.

March 2001 - created a dedicated web page for iSCSI

September 3, 2001 - ran its first banner ad for a D2d product for Nexsan Technologies (see below).
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November 2001 - in an article called - the Next Decade in Storage - precisely foretold the reasons why D2d would eventually replace tape backup.

March 2002 - created a dedicated web page for D2d

May 2002 - ads on's main D2d page were split 50:50 between new D2d systems and tape libraries as you can see on the archived page.

December 2002 - in's year end review - SATA was named Product Category of the Year - based on reader pageviews. SATA hard drives provided a step change in capacity and system cost which later helped to accelerate the D2d market.

February 2003 - the first recorded occurrence of the term VTL (virtual tape library) appears in a joint news story by MTI Technology and Quantum.

April 2003 - reported on May 5, 2003 that reader pageviews for disk to disk backup in April 2003 exceeded pageviews for tape backup for the first time. "We're now at a watershed where users no longer have to choose tape just because their forebears did" - said editor Zsolt Kerekes at the time.

October 2003 - StoneFly Networks and CommVaultSystems launched a bundled D2D backup IP SAN system that starts at $33,995 for a 1TB solution.

November 2003 - commenting on the launch of its new ATAbaby disk array Nexsan's Senior Executive Vice President Diamond Lauffin said "The new ATAbaby Twins is another nail in the coffin of tape-based backup. No tape loader or library can deliver the same level of data protection and availability at anywhere close to this price."

January 2004 - COPAN Systems summarised the current state of the tape - verses D2d market. "Unfortunately, even with the advent of the new SATA disk systems at $10/GB, disk is still three to five times the cost of automated tape libraries making long term data management prohibitive. In addition, many enterprises are concerned with the reliability of SATA technologies."

August 2004 - Peripheral Concepts published the results of their market research into backup practises and plans in over 1,000 major IT sites. The report said:- "The population using disk in backup has grown to 62%, and is forecast to reach 76% penetration by 2005."

December 2004 - Engenio published an article called - Disk to Disk Backup versus Tape - War or Truce?

Commenting on this said "Will disk to disk backup make tape backup obsolete? That's a question that's been debated hotly here on STORAGEsearch for many years. At the extreme polarized ends of the argument are tape media makers like Sony, who in an article here made a case for the long term survival of tape, and at the other end of the argument are disk to disk supporters like STORAGEsearch whose editorial view (March 2004) has been that tape doesn't have a viable role the midsize market any more.

March 2005 - Quantum became the first major storage vendor to include data compression within a D2d product when it added its Optyon hardware based data compression technology to the DX-Series disk-based backup systems enabling 2T / hour backup performance. In addition to the cost savings compared to uncompressed solutions - an additional benefit is increased storage reliability for customers. Because they only need half as many disks in their disk backup population.

Overland claimed to be the #1 company in disk to disk backup, saying it had shipped more disk-based backup appliances than any other vendor:- more than 1,000 of its own REOs. I was sceptical about this leadership claim - but no one contested it at the time.

October 2005 - MaXXan Systems published an article called - Virtual Tape: Can You Afford to Ignore It?

Commenting on this said "Some of the growing sophistication in the market can be seen by the way that the marketing terminology has morphed from the early D2d (let's kill tape backup) to the current VTL (Virtual Tape Library - let's just see if they notice that it's more reliable and works faster - and don't tell them that there isn't a tape in the box) type of approaches."

May 2006 - in a white paper called "Total Data Protection" - Farid Neema, President of Peripheral Concepts wrote - "For the first time ever, more than one half of the surveyed managers consider the possibility of a tapeless IT operation in the long run. This aspiration for "getting rid" of tapes is even more pronounced in very large IT operations. In 2006, there will be more data backed up on disk than on tape, and disk should gain 4% share every year for the next three years."

August 2006 - D2d became the 4th most popular subject viewed by's readers (up from #15 in July). I commented - "Recent months have seen a spate of mergers and revenue attrition in the tape backup market - and the sharp increase in D2d content may signal that users no longer give credence to all the brave bullish talk they've been hearing from tape backup companies.

September 2006 - D2d became the 2nd most popular subject viewed by's readers.

October 2006 - D2d became the #1 most popular subject viewed by's readers. ...later:- and it remained #1 for the next 8 months too - upto and including May 2007.

Also in October 2006 - Network Appliance added data compression to its Virtual Tape Libraries.

December 2006 - D2D was named's Product Category of the Year 2006. In Q406 there was a surge of interest in D2D - which accounted for more reader pageviews than the next two subjects added together, despite annual pageview growth over 50% in those subjects too. "These results predict a stunning growth year for the disk to disk backup industry in 2007" said Zsolt Kerekes, editor

January 2007 - Hitachi announced the industry's first terabyte hard drive priced at about 40 cents per gigabyte.

March 2007 - Enterprise Strategy Group quoted from their VTL Adoption and Market Trends Report that "85% of VTL users have already eliminated tape from their daily backup schedules."

April 2007 - reported that tape backup related searches had dropped out of the top 20 subjects viewed by readers in the preceding month.

June 2007 - Idealstor announced it had certified Hitachi's new terabyte hard disks for use with its Teralyte removable disk backup system.

November 2007 - NetApp's CEO Dave Hitz said in his blog this month "...I'm surprised how important creating real tapes from the VTL has remained. Despite all the hoopla about disk-to-disk backups, 80% of VTL customers still rely on tape for some part of their process."

December 2007 - Disk to Disk Backup is named's Product Category of the Year 2007 - for the 2nd year in a row.

July 2008 - The first enterprise storage product to apply disk backup techniques to a flash SSD array was announced by Texas Memory Systems. The RamSan-440 - a 4U rackmount RAM SSD automatically backs up and restores its 512GB of fast SSD storage in 6 minutes (compared to 2 hours with an internal hard disk protected system.)

April 2009 - 2 troubled tape library makers reached their nadirs.
  • Sun Microsystems was acquired by Oracle for for approximately $7.4 billion. (Which is similar to Sun's own total spend on acquiring storage companies. Thereby valuing Sun's server business as zero - or vice versa.)
August 2009 - 2TB 3.5" 7,200 RPM hard drives from Hitachi and Western Digital started to appear in high density enterprise disk arrays from multiple vendors.

October 2009 - Sony warned users that it was - at long last - end of lifing AIT drives - and they would no longer be available after March 2010.

November 2009 - Axxana announced it has secured $9 million Series B investment led by Carmel Ventures. The funds will be used to accelerate the adoption of The Phoenix System - a lossless data recovery system which sits on the SAN and records data into a rugged flash SSD-enabled, locally situated, data survival box.

December 2009 - Symantec announced an upgrade to its Storage Foundation management software which enables it to automatically discover SSDs from leading vendors and optimize data placement on SSD devices transparently.

January 2010 - ioSafe launched the ioSafe Solo SSD - an ultra rugged USB / eSATA external flash SSD with upto 256GB capacity ($1,250) designed to provide data protection against disasters such as fire, flood, and building collapse.

February 2010 - published a new directory on the subject of - Solid State Storage Backup (S3B). This story continues in that segment of SSD market history.

See also:-

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The History of Disk to Disk Backup in the Small Business and Home Workplace Market

The 5.25" hard drives used in the early days of the IBM desktop PC (1982) were too delicate to be any use as removable backups. For most of the 1980s even the process of installing a new 5.25" drive could destroy it, unless you took precautions and had shock absorbent material on your work bench. But a new generation of more rugged disks was evolving in parallel.

In 1983 the newly formed Compaq Computer launched the first IBM PC compatible portables. These used the new style of 3.5"rugged disk drives from Connor Peripherals which were better able to survive shock and vibration. Initially more expensive than other drives, they had the added advantage of taking up less space and a lower dead on arrival rate for systems integrators.

However, during most of the 1980s the cost and unreliability of removable hard drives prevented them from being widely used as a backup medium. The exception was the military. Special shock absorbent elastometric shuttles were designed to enable disks to be used in high vibration environments and to be easily removed and locked away for security reasons. The problem was that the shuttles cost more than the disk drives and were out of reach of most users' budgets.

During the early 1990s, backup for most home PC users (if they did it at all) meant using multiple floppy disks. In 1995 Iomega simplified this process with the launch of their Zip drive. The Zip drive offered the equivalent storage capacity of about 100 floppy disks on a single super floppy. A few years later the Jaz drive, a 1G byte removable disk with rugged handling characteristics provided one of the first examples of true affordable disk to disk backup.

By the year 2001 the newest generations of hard drives designed for portable PCs and cameras were rugged enough to use as external backup devices with little or no additional mechanical protection. Connecting simply via USB or Firewire, an external hard disk backup became the cheapest form of backup device for the home workplace. Dozens of hard disk manufacturers such as Western Digital now supply these solutions with integrated software.

See also:- FireWire storage, Removable disk drives, USB storage
SSDs Pass HDDs in Storage Density

2009 may well be remembered as the year that flash SSDs surpassed HDDs in storage capacity in the same form factor.

I'm not talking about itsy bitsy 1 inch and smaller drives here. I'm talking about the hard core 2.5" form factor.

That's the size which once seemed to offer the best hopes for hard disk makers staying in business - in applications like disk to disk backup, entertainment bulk storage etc.

In January 2009 - pureSilicon started sampling a 2.5" MLC SSD - with 1TB capacity in a 9.5mm high form factor.

A few weeks later Western Digital temporarily restored the parity in storage density when it announced a 2TB 3.5" hard drive. Since you can put 2x 2.5" drives into a single 3.5" enclosure - you can think of them as being equivalent. That is until either the next amplification in MLC (if it ever works) or the next shrink in flash memory (maybe later than sooner).

Price of the 2.5" terabyte SSD wasn't mentioned. I expect it will cost a lot. But nowhere near as much as the 1st terabyte SSDs cost - when they appeared in 2002 - at a cool $2 million.

So you may well ask - when will SSDs cost less than HDDs for the same capacity?

In some high-performance grades (15K RPM server drives) - I expect to see that happen this year - in smaller capacities like 100GB. Looking Ahead to the 2009 SSD Market

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