Modern data centers are being faced with challenging questions around the future of the tape drive. Yes, it is traditional and most backups today are being stored directly on the disk, but is it ready to be discarded from the data center environment? Most experts will still hold on to tape as an integral part of their storage solutions, considering the big picture of exponentially increasing data capacities and staggering infrastructure costs.

To Tape or Not to Tape? The Biggest Data Center Storage QuestionTapes have many advantages as compared to other storage media, such as high reliability and very low error rate. Its role is expanding from traditional backup and archival media to other applications that support big data, cloud computing and scale-out NAS. The truth is that many data centers do not use tape as much for backup and archival today. They are using tapes as the third and even fourth line of defense against data loss (as a backup for their backup!), as other more sophisticated systems have evolved over the years.

What is really wonderful to witness is the transformation that the good old magnetic tape has gone through over the years. The latest in tape revolution is the new process from Sony which allows for 185 terabytes of data on one tape cartridge. This is on an average 74 times more capacity than the current data center tapes. IBM and Oracle have also made innovations in high-capacity enterprise tape formats by using next-generation materials, such as Barium Ferrite. BaFe has high-performance features, such as a smaller particle size and a better signal to noise ratio.

The future looks promising for the new generation of tape technologies. We still need tapes for storing data for compliance-related matters, and they are still cost-effective solutions and easy to move around.

What do you think? Is the tape dead?

Alex Carroll

Alex Carroll

Managing Member at Lifeline Data Centers
Alex, co-owner, is responsible for all real estate, construction and mission critical facilities: hardened buildings, power systems, cooling systems, fire suppression, and environmentals. Alex also manages relationships with the telecommunications providers and has an extensive background in IT infrastructure support, database administration and software design and development. Alex architected Lifeline’s proprietary GRCA system and is hands-on every day in the data center.