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Tape Libraries on StorageSearch.com - really? - by Zsolt Kerekes, editor

Believe it or not - back in 1999 this tape library page was one of the most popular destinations on this website.

A year later - in 2000 - I published the first online directory dedicated to enterprise disk to disk bakup (as we called it in those days) and it's been called many things along the way since - D2d, VTL, cloud...

Anyway you're still using tape. You may not like it - but due to massive amounts of data, legacy architectures, etc etc - you're still using tape libraries. If so - I've got some surprising news for you...

You may be able to skip the transition to hard disk backup!

If you're a Huge data owner and still using tape - I suggest you read my roadmap to the petabyte SSD article. Even if hard drives become free - they won't scale to a petabyte in 1U - whereas solid state storage will. I expect SSD libraries will be the next thing in your future. But you may still got to hang in there for another 5 years of managing all those tape cartridges in the meantime.
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in the past? - Tape's glory days

Tape libraries once defined the aristocracy in the storage market.

Tape libraries were used by the biggest owners of data and supplied by the fastest growing storage companies.

in the future? - Looping beyond platters to solid state

If you don't already use tape backup - then I suggest you don't start now.

It's a storage technology which is only being maintained by a declining number of vendors supporting a declining market (less than 1/2 the revenue it was at the peak 10 years ago). In the declining phases of technology markets vendors can make lots of profit by exploiting user inertia and exploiting the fact that new vendors rarely enter stagnant end of life markets - thereby reducing price competition.

Currently hard disk based backup has replaced the role which tape used to play as the most common high performance enterprise backup media.

By 2020 enterprise hard disk backup itself will be obsolete and replaced by solid state backup. The transition from HDD to SSD backup will be a discontinuous and disruptive process. And because the new SSD bulk storage architectures will not be simply VTLs populated by SSDs instead of HDDs - but entirely new types of products with different operating characteristics - it's likely that many current VTL vendors will fail to transition to the new technologies.

There's nothing new in this. The tides of sweeping change roll through the computer market every 10 to 15 years. The web means we learn about new technologies faster - but it still takes a long time for users and vendors to adapt, migrate and learn new ways of doing new things.

Tape Turns 60
SSDs - reaching for the petabyte
Protecting Enterprise Data in Real Time
Spectra Logic's backup and recovery blog
Virtual Tape: Can You Afford to Ignore It?
Disk to Disk Backup versus Tape - War or Truce?
How the backup market moved from tape to disk and VTLs
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Tape Library News
university researchers compare SSD and tape archives

Editor:- November 1, 2011 - a recent white paper - Using Storage Class Memory for Archives with DAWN, a Durable Array of Wimpy Nodes (pdf) - written by academics at University of California, Santa Cruz and Stanford University - and published under the auspices of the Storage Systems Research Center compares the long term cost and reliability of solid state archival storage and traditional media - such as tape.

"Our investigation has shown that storage class memories have many characteristics favorable to digital archiving. Despite this, more investigation in several areas is needed in order to fully understand the tradeoffs and feasibility of a storage class memory approach." ...read the article


Is there a Future for Tape Backup? - revisited in a roundabout way

Editor:- October 25, 2011 - Is there a Future for Tape Backup? is an interesting review of this subject from Steven Golden from the perspective of what he calls a "programmer" oriented blog called Code and Butter

His blogs - which I just discovered for the first time - are well thought out and neatly formatted too. If you ever want to start your own WordPress blog - you can learn from his pages. It's lucky for me that standards for web pages were a lot lower when I got started.


SEPATON article on tape dinosaurs

Editor:- August 30, 2010 - Jon Mills, Director of European operations at SEPATON recently published an article - Tape - the T Rex of backup? - which provides anthropological comparisons between tape libraries and these popular creatures.

I guess it takes one soon-to-be-extinct dinosoar to recognize another. My own view is that hard disk based backup will eventually be replaced by solid state backup. So enjoy chewing the spinning magnetic leaves while they last.


Overland launches tape library patent suit

Editor:- August 20, 2010 - Overland Storage announced it is suing BDT AG - for alledged infringement of tape library related patents.

"We owe it to our shareholders and our customers to protect the technology investments we have made throughout the years," said Eric Kelly, President and CEO of Overland Storage. "We believe our technologies are one of the driving forces behind the demand for tape storage solutions today. Our patented technologies allow us and others to bring to market products and solutions that are more reliable, more secure and more efficient."

Editor's comments:- Tape library market revenue has halved in the past 10 years. (2000 tape library revenue was $2 billion according to Freeman Reports .) But that strengthens the case for defending each remaining slice and crumb.


New fitness service for old tape libraries

Editor:- July 12, 2010 - Crossroads Systems today announced a new service for users of tape libraries.

The library overview analysis service provides comprehensive analytics on the health, performance and utilization of tape libraries and helps users identify the any sources of inefficiencies which can otherwise lead to backups exceeding allocated time windows.

"Rather than tossing out perfectly good media, storage administrators can avoid unnecessary costs and headaches by viewing the precise status and health of their environment," said Elaine Pleshek, senior product manager at Crossroads Systems. "It's a service that pays for itself. By gaining a reliable tool that continually diagnoses operational backup errors, organizations can experience impressive performance improvements." See also:- Storage Services


Re tape's protracted demise

Editor:- June 16, 2010 - How tape dies is the latest blog from StorageMojo, Robin Harris.

Tape market's body is still twitching - so it's not technically a corpse (yet) - but the life signs are getting smaller.


Overland expands LTO-5 support

Editor:- April 21, 2010 - April 21, 2010 - Overland Storage today announced expanded support for LTO-5 (tape) technology (available from May 1, 2010) across its entire line of NEO Series products - which offer backup storage capacity up to 76TB and support for disk-based backup.


StorageSearch.com asks - Could TB HDDs be given away free?

Editor:- June 10, 2010 - a new article published today on StorageSearch.com asks - Could terabyte hard drives ever be given away free?

I think could that be a really good business strategy to prolong the life of the HDD market beyond 2016.

And you thought the outlook was shaky for the tape market... ...read the article


reaching for the petabyte SSD

Editor:- March 16, 2010 - previewing the final chapters in the long running SSD vs HDD wars - StorageSearch.com today published an industry changing new article - SSDs - reaching for the Petabyte.

What will the PB SSD look like? When will it appear? What technology problems do SSD designers have to solve to get there? What about the storage architecture that the PB SSD fits into? How much electrical power will it consume? And... you may be curious - how much will it cost?

All these questions and more - are discussed and answered in this article which - I anticipate - will inspire product managers and company founders to create completely new types of SSDs. ...read the article


New Integrity Tool for Old Tape Archives

Editor:- January 18, 2010 - Crossroads Systems today announced details of ArchiveVerify - a new monitoring option for its ReadVerify Appliance that safeguards the future readability of data backed up on tape.

"In our experience, the Achilles' heel of a data recovery strategy is often the uncertainty of the data's readability, and this single point of failure can render then entire restore process useless," adds Bernd Krieger, Managing Director, at Crossroads Europe.

Editor's comments:- Crossroads was originally a specialist in the SAN router business. In recent years it has done a lot of work in the area of storage reliability. I've read lots of their whitepapers which describe their research and products addressing data integrity. Although there has been a historic trend for users to migrate away from tape to disk backup - many super users of huge tape libraries (with the biggest archives) will be the last to migrate away - due to logistics and cost. It's those kind of users who can benefit most from automated tools or services which increase the data integrity they achieve and cut down media waste and unrecoverable events.


$9 million Funding Round for flash SSD Enabled SAN Backup

Editor:- November 18, 2009 - Axxana announced it has secured $9 million Series B investment led by Carmel Ventures.

Axxana's existing investors, Gemini Israel Funds and the serial entrepreneur Moshe Yanai, also participated in the round.

The funds will be used to accelerate the adoption of The Phoenix System - the first "Black Box" Enterprise Data Recorder which was demonstrated at EMC World in May 2009.

"Axxana's EDR brings a disruptive solution that is well poised to transform the entire storage replication market and create a whole new category within it," said Ronen Nir, Partner at Carmel Ventures. "We are impressed with Axxana's strong founding team and their achievements so far, including impressive endorsement by leading storage vendors worldwide."

Editor's comments:- Axxana's solution is a lossless data recovery system which sits on the SAN and records data into a rugged flash SSD-enabled, locally situated, data survival box. Although Axxana talks about it "complementing" other types of data protection - such as offsite / online backup my gut feel is that if the product shows itself to be usable and reliable in a wide range of environments - it will set a new standard for backup which will supercede anything possible with rotating disk backup systems or tape.

The clearest explanation is in Axxana's datasheet (pf).


BakBone Wakes Up to Disk Backup

Editor:- September 16, 2009 - BakBone Software today announced it will change its focus from traditional tape-based data protection solutions to disk-based technology with new products to be launched soon.

FalconStor Claims Fastest Deduped Backup
Editor:- June 1, 2009 - FalconStor Software today claimed that it now delivers the fastest backup and deduplication time in the industry.

Using a 100TB test bed connected to a single cluster of 2 FalconStor VTL nodes the total time to backup and deduplicate data was under 14 hours, yielding an average of 2GB/s per second.

Physical tape production can be achieved directly through 4Gbps Fibre Channel links by exporting tapes from FalconStor VTL to the physical tape library without using a separate media server. All hardware components used for the performance test are commonly available standard parts, including standard Linux-based servers and low-cost SATA-based storage subsystems.

Editor's comments:- Record Breaking claims are often hostage to editor research. We've certainly run stories about faster backup and restores before - but they didn't include dedupe. Let's see if this one passes the test of reader scrutiny.


Tandberg's Tape Bust

Editor:- April 27, 2009 - Tandberg Data has filed for bankruptcy and today announced details of its restructuring plan.

There's no surprise here. The current recession has merely brought forward an inevitable event. Although Tandberg had acquired and licensed various disk backup technologies it remained culturally wedded to tape.

I've chronicled the transition of the backup market from tape to hard disk and in some ways it's similar to what's been happening in the hard disk market versus flash SSD space. But the SSD market is more complicated - because whereas slow cheap SSDs replace hard drives, fast expensive SSDs replace server CPUs.

As with hard drives, the highest capacity tape libraries will remain spinning the longest. Nothing stays the same in the storage market for long. Looking ahead at the next 10 years SSDs will replace hard drives in enterprise backup systems too.

But let's get back to today's news from Tandberg Data, whose CEO, Pat Clarke, said - "The operations of the Tandberg Data subsidiaries will continue to operate in this new structure, with a much reduced debt burden. The difficult steps we are taking now will enable us to build a company that can be successful in providing data protection solutions and support to our valued customers, suppliers, and business partners for a long time to come"

Trawling back through gone-away / bust storage companies list (where the score now stands at 490 BTW) a search for "Tandberg" reveals it had previously acquired these companies:- LAND-5, InoStor, Exabyte and Computer Design Group.


Spectra Dims Sun's Lights at NASA Ames

Editor:- April 20, 2009 - Spectra Logic today disclosed that it has ousted Sun in a big tape library installation - following a 9 month evaluation.

Spectra recently installed 2x T950 tape libraries which together offer approximately 20,000 data storage slots and up to 32 petabytes of storage capacity, with data compression.

By replacing multiple, legacy Sun/STK 9310 silos with Spectra Logic technology, NASA Ames has freed more than 1,400 square feet of valuable data center floor space.

Editor's comments:- according to Sun's website, its own suggested replacement for the 9310 is the SL8500 Modular Library. So I guess that's the product (or the service offering) which Spectra beat in this case.


Sun Proposes Standardizing Tape Storage Encryption

Santa Clara, CA - February 17, 2009 - Sun Microsystems today announced an open source initiative for removable storage encryption in Solaris environments.

This is based on the key manager which Sun already uses in some of its Tape Libraries. See also:- Storage Security


New VTL Emulates 256 Mainframe Tape Drives

Burlington, MA - August 11, 2008- Today, Bus-Tech, Inc. announced the introduction of the Mainframe Data Library model 6000.

The new model boasts of throughput in excess of 1 gigabyte per second, 4Gbps FICON support, 1,536 emulated tape transports and enhanced availability features. The MDL-6000 features from 3 to 6 independent emulation nodes; each of which support two FICON channel adapters and emulate up to 256 mainframe tape drives. ...Bus-Tech profile


Sun Launches Terabyte Tape Drive

SANTA CLARA, CA - July 14, 2008 - Sun Microsystems, Inc. today announced imminent availability of its first terabyte tape drive.

The T10000B tape drive offers 1TB of native storage capacity on a single cartridge with 120MB/sec throughput. It uses the same physical tape drive for FICON and Fibre Channel, allowing users to switch media between SAN and mainframe environments. The new drive supports WORM capability and encryption. Pricing starts at $37,000. ...Sun profile, Tape drives


1U StorageLoader LTO Aims at Entry Level Tape Backup

Oslo Norway - June 2, 2008 - Tandberg Data today announced the availability of its StorageLoader LTO.

The 1U tape library offers compressed storage capacities up to 12TB and transfer rates up to 576GB/hr and is available with LVD SCSI or SAS connectivity. The StorageLoader has 2x 4-slot removable magazines. ESP for the StorageLoader LTO-4 HH is $4,499. ...Tandberg Data profile


Spectra Libraries will Log Tape Health Metrics

SNW, ORLANDO, FL - April 8, 2008 - Spectra Logic announced details of its soon to be released new Media Lifecycle Management software for its tape library customers.

MLM will reduce backup failures by tracking more than 30 pieces of information about individual LTO tapes and logging this on on the tape's built in flash chip. Information such as: born-on date, number of reads and writes, error rate, media quality, date of last access, application usage, encryption information, cleaning log and remaining capacity are tracked. MLM and BlueScale are compatible with all major backup applications. ...Spectra Logic profile

Editor's comments:-
already past the decline and now in the fall years of the tape library market it looks like customers will get all kinds of useful information and services which they probably would have liked to have before. This sounds similar in concept to the SMART logs in hard disks and SiSMART in SiliconSystems' flash SSDs.


Fujifilm Launches Wireless Backup Tape Tracker

VALHALLA, N.Y. - March 26, 2008 - Fujifilm today announced the immediate availability of the Fujifilm Tape Tracker, a wireless tool to help data managers increase security of data by tracking in real-time the location and status of sensitive removable media cartridges while in transit.

The Fujifilm Tape Tracker (patents pending) is designed within a 0.5" tape cartridge format, enabling it to fit snugly and discreetly inside nearly any tape media case. The Fujifind application uses the information, tracking, geo-fencing and notification capability of SC-Integrity's LoJack InTransit monitoring solution.

"The tremendous feedback we received from customers when we introduced this concept last year made clear - there is a significant desire to maintain visibility and control over removable media during shipment from one location to another," said Daniel Greenberg at Fujifilm Recording Media. "The ability of tape to store large quantities of data in a cost effective, energy efficient, removable format make it a preferred medium to backup and archive critical business data. The Tape Tracker gives power back to the data managers to maintain a chain of custody for these assets as they move between data center backup, vault or disaster recovery destinations." ...Fujifilm profile


Expansion Modules Push Tape Library Past 2 Petabytes

SIMI VALLEY, Calif - February 20, 2008 - Qualstar Corp today announced that the MEM ll (Memory Expansion Module), is now available on its popular XLS-812300 tape library.

Each MEM ll delivers 535 tape storage slots in just 5.3 square feet of floor space. Using LTO 4 tape technology with typical compression, a single MEM ll holds 856 terabytes, one of the highest storage densities in the industry. One or two MEM ll's can be added to each XLS-812300 Library System, raising its total capacity to 1,365 slots, or 2.2 petabytes of data.

XLS-812300 libraries hold up to 12 LTO 4 tape drives, delivering data throughput rates of over 5 terabytes per hour to meet ever-narrowing backup windows. Adding capacity or drives is readily accomplished in the field with minimal interruption to on-going operations. The MEM ll can be intermixed with the XLS-812300 Expansion Pods to provide granular solutions to meet a broad range of data protection and archival storage growth requirements. ...Qualstar profile, Tape Libraries & Autoloaders
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tape library history:- see this page in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
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... Terrorbyte image
Terrorbyte, had a huge library.
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SSD ad - click for more info
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Tape Library manufacturers list
In the list below I've culled survivors from the much longer list which used to be on this page in the 1990s.
Ampex Data Systems

Cutting Edge

Cybernetics

DinoStor

HP

IBM

M5 Data

Mast Storage

Oracle

Overland Storage

PivotStor

Qualstar

Quantum

Rorke Data

Sony

Spectra Logic

StorageHeaven

Tandberg Data
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this way to the Petabyte SSD
In 2016 there will be just 3 types of SSD in the datacenter.

One of them doesn't exist yet - the bulk storage SSD.

It will start to replace the last remaining strongholds of hard drives in the datacenter due to its unique combination of characteristics, huge storage density, low running costs and operational advantages.

Bulk storage SSDs will displace the last remaining hard drives in the enterprise server market by 2020 - even if the price of a new hard disk drops to zero and enterprise HDDs are given away free!
click to read the article -  reaching for the petabyte SSD - not as scary as you may think ... The new business and architectural models of the datacenter - how we get from here to there - and the technical and problems which will need to be solved - are just some of the ideas explored in this visionary article.
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