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After 60 Years, Tape Reinserts Itself 312

Posted by timothy
from the sentience-from-unexpected-source dept.
Lucas123 writes "While magnetic tape is about as boring as technology gets, it's still the cheapest storage medium and among the fastest in sequential reads and writes. And, with the release of LTO-6 with 8TB cartridges around the corner and the relatively new open linear tape file system (LTFS) being embraced by movie and television markets, tape is taking on a new life. It may even climb out of the dusty archives that cheap disk has relegated it to. 'Over the last two years, disk drives have gotten bigger, they've gone from 1TB to 3TB, but they haven't gotten faster. They're more like tape. Meanwhile, tape is going the other direction, it's getting faster,' said Mark Lemmons, CTO of Thought Equity Motion, a cloud storage service for the motion picture industry."
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After 60 Years, Tape Reinserts Itself

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  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:31PM (#39514951)

    Once again, Reel-To-Reel computers are no longer anachronistic in 60's Sci-Fi shows.

    • by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:34PM (#39515001) Journal

      Once again, Reel-To-Reel computers are no longer anachronistic in 60's Sci-Fi shows.

      But... but... they must have the blinkenlights!

      • by lightknight (213164) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:00PM (#39515327) Homepage

        And blow up with explosions, even if there is nothing remotely explosive stored around or within them.

        • by mhajicek (1582795)
          Just make your magnetic tape on a nitrocellulose base.
          • by donaldm (919619) on Friday March 30, 2012 @03:36AM (#39519963)

            Just make your magnetic tape on a nitrocellulose base.

            I was working for a Government scientific company back in the 1980's and was asked to purchase a years worth of backup tapes so I was pointed to a Government preferred company to purchase the reel to reel tapes (max capacity 100MB - not bad for the day). For a year the tapes worked flawlessly then the substrate started to flake off rendering the tapes useless. It seams either someone got a kick back or the people who make the recommendations for preferred Government purchases really stuffed up. Needless to say when we found out we had to repurchase tapes. Fortunately we were never asked to recover data from those tapes so it was not that serious, however it could have been.

        • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday March 30, 2012 @09:59AM (#39522183) Homepage Journal

          I had a friend in the lats 1990s who, when he saw I had a computer, acrually asked "aren't you afraid it will explode?" See what happens when you can't tell fiction from reality?

          The reason that the old movie and TV shows (especially in the fifties) depicted computers blowing up was because the early computers used vaccuum tubes, which need a lot of power to heat all the filiments in all the tubes; these things had an insane number of tubes compared to any other piece of electronics.

          If there's a short circuit anywhere inside one of these antique tube monstrosities, it did in fact often go off with a loud pop and a bright flash. Short a 110v power plug and you'll see what I mean. Today's computers, being solid state, don't use more than 12v outside the power supply itself.

          That's not to say that some of those old shows weren't laughably ignorant. One episode of The Prisoner had number six making a computer blow up by asking it "why?"

      • The first place I worked had an enclosure decorated with strands of randomly blinking christmas lights. It was a piece of equipment that I didn't know what it was used for. I think I was there a year before someone explained to me that it wasn't functional and had not been in operation for almost a decade.

    • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:44PM (#39515899) Journal

      And the tar command will actually refer to tapes again

    • At last, we can watch Joe 90 again [youtube.com].

  • by techstar25 (556988) <techstar25 AT cfl DOT rr DOT com> on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:32PM (#39514963) Homepage Journal
    Sure, it reinserts itself, but when it's finished does it take itself out, flip it to the other side, and then reinsert itself again?
  • Finally!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iamhassi (659463) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:36PM (#39515023) Journal
    I've missed my tape drive! My TR-3 1.6/3.2 circa 1996, was plenty for the hard drives available at time and pretty much a requirement for Windows 95 considering how often it killed itself, but within just a few years the hard drives far exceeded the capacity of tape. Fortunately by then Windows 2000 was out and life has been good since.

    I'd love to use tape again, but with 1.5/3.0TB drives selling in the $1,500 range [google.com] it still doesn't make sense, not when I can buy a dozen 2TB hard drives for the price of one 1.5/3.0TB tape drive [newegg.com]
    • Re:Finally!! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:43PM (#39515115)

      I'd love to use tape again, but with 1.5/3.0TB drives selling in the $1,500 range [google.com] it still doesn't make sense, not when I can buy a dozen 2TB hard drives for the price of one 1.5/3.0TB tape drive [newegg.com]

      Right, and if all you need is a few dozen drives, it's probably not worth it. Let's talk when you need to backup 12 TB every night and you can only recycle the tapes yearly. Two drives and 1800 tapes is cheaper than 1800 drives, and until convinced otherwise I believe the tapes will take the time in storage with a better chance of coming back to life.

      Tape isn't for days of storage, it's for archival.

      • Re:Finally!! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:28PM (#39515719) Journal

        The problem is that a 1.5 TB tape costs $50 and were it not for the flooding in Thailand, a 3 TB hard drive would cost under $80 like they were last year, which means that you never break even with tape cost-wise no matter the volume.

        And then there's the added inconvenience. When lots of desktop computers come with a 3 TB hard drive and your tapes only hold 1.5 TB apiece, that means that even home machines are split across multiple tapes. This means the $1500 bare tape drive isn't enough to back up even a home computer. You'll need that $5,000 tape library instead.

        Also, I wish people would quit calling LTO-6 an 8 TB drive. It uses only a 3.2 TB tape, which is too small to even back up hard drives that were shipping three months ago (4 TB) without compression. So the product that they haven't even started shipping is already hopelessly out of date, just has been the case for every consecutive generation of tape drive for at least the last ten years. Even more amusingly, the tape industry keeps creeping up in their estimates of compression. It used to be that their best-case capacity estimates assumed 2x compression. Now it's 2.5x. They're trying to look like they still matter, when in reality, they're falling further and further behind the hard drive industry. If it provided 8 TB uncompressed, I would consider buying one (assuming the tape price were under a hundred bucks a tape), but tape drives will really only be interesting to me if they actually get out ahead of peak hard drive capacity by enough of a margin that the tape drive will still be able to back up an entire machine in less than three or four tapes after a few years. Otherwise, they will never make sense unless you're backing up terabytes per day.

        It's a shame, too. I really liked owning a tape drive back in the late 1990s. The big difference is that my computer at the time was five years old and had a small hard drive, so I was able to buy a used tape drive for under a hundred bucks that would back it up onto a single tape that cost me ten or twelve dollars. The difference between that and a $1,500 drive with $100+ tapes is not small.

        For big, institutional setups where you're backing up terabytes per day, tape might still make sense, but only because hard drive prices are temporarily high and because storage space has a nonzero cost. For folks with more realistic daily data deltas, they're way too expensive, way too small, and for all practical purposes, completely irrelevant already. It's going to take a lot more than being able to back up 3/4ths of the current top-of-the-line hard drive per tape before tape will make sense again.

        • Re:Finally!! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @09:32PM (#39518159)

          Full disclosure: I work as a professional backup/recovery sysadmin. I have been working with tape for over seven years. It's not dead; far from it. Now, if you want to argue that there are areas where it used to make sense, but doesn't any more, I'd completely agree with you. But consider one usage case as an example of how tape is still incredibly useful - this is taken from a company I did work for a couple of years ago.

          You have multiple petabytes of data. At any given point in time, you need to be able to access a specific subset of that data. You can predict, ahead of time, 95+% of the data that you will need in (say) a week's time. The rest, you don't need to be able to access quickly, but you have to retain it, because it's expensive (if not impossible) to reproduce. Once you're done with the data, you might not need it again for a year or more, or you might need it again in a few days (possibly a few hours.)

          So: you could have a very large disk array to store all that data. The hard drives are relatively cheap individually, but the support infrastructure to merge them into large arrays is expensive. The cost to keep them all online (electricity, cooling) is high. The probability of failure is relatively low, but the rebuild time if it happens can be high, depending on how things are structured. The marginal cost of adding more storage is relatively high: you have to get a new array, new disks, new fibre connections, hook it all up, hope you have enough power, ...

          Or you could have a large tape library, with multiple high-capacity drives (LTO4 in the case of the customer I'm thinking of), and thousands (yes, I'm serious) of cartridges. The data is written to the tapes; ideally duplicated (this customer didn't do that; I reckon they were stupid); and then deleted from the hard disk staging area (only a couple of TB in size.) When a given piece of data is needed, it's read off the tapes in advance, written to disk, and then accessed from the disk. Once it's no longer needed, it's simply deleted off the disk (since it's already on the tape.) Marginal cost of adding more storage: how much does a single tape cartridge cost? (maybe a storage frame if the library's full; they aren't exactly cheap, but they do hold over 1300 cartridges each: over a petabyte in potential capacity with no extra electrical requirements [LTO4; double that for LTO5], bang, done.) Electrical and cooling requirements: significantly lower; you only have to worry about a couple of TB of disk space, and a few tape drives, plus the tape robot. Rebuild time: just copy it off the redundant copy if the tape's bad.

          Is this sort of usage typical? No, not really. But it's certainly not abnormal, and this is the sort of case where tape whomps all over disk when you sit down and work through all the numbers (look at it generally, rather than thinking just about the specifics outlined; they illustrate the point, and aren't the entire point themselves.) Tape's also useful if you need to move large quantities of data offsite (backups, anybody?) and can't afford, or don't want, high capacity fibre out of your data centre to another remote location.

          I agree that "capacity after compression" is pure marketing; I do my figuring based upon native capacity (800 GB for LTO4; 1.5 TB for LTO5; 5 TB for T10000C; 3.2 TB - we hope - for LTO6). But to say that tape is "way too expensive, way too small, and ... completely irrelevant" is to misunderstand the strengths and uses of tape. Like I said: look at all the numbers, not just the purchase cost per raw TB, and pick whatever's right for the application in question.

          Oh, and the use case I outlined above? It's for a pay TV network. TV shows, movies, sporting events, concerts, documentaries. All purchased legally, but impossible to reproduce (sporting events), or expensive to re-procure (TV shows, movies) if they're lost. Think about it.

          • Re:Finally!! (Score:4, Informative)

            by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @10:44PM (#39518735) Journal

            The only thing a RAID array buys you is convenience of access and the ability to store single files that exceed the size of a hard drive, so if you're just storing individual files long-term, there's no reason to merge the stuff into large RAID arrays.

            You can use a hard drive in exactly the same way that you would use a tape. Number each drive with a big, numbered sticker, and when you fill up a drive, make an index of everything on it and keep that on a drive that you back up regularly.

            So for that case, the only differences between a hard drive and tapes are A. automated indexing (maybe), B. the cost of the tape drive, C. the difference in cost between a tape and a hard drive, and D. the additional physical space that the hard drive takes up. And even the physical space isn't all that different if you're talking about external laptop drives. So it's mostly cost plus ten lines of code.

            For the giant library situation, yes, if you have instant access requirements (a TV broadcast facility comes to mind), it might be marginally cheaper to manage a library of tapes than a library of hard drives, at least for now.

      • Re:Finally!! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by pla (258480) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:34PM (#39515815) Journal
        Right, and if all you need is a few dozen drives, it's probably not worth it. Let's talk when you need to backup 12 TB every night and you can only recycle the tapes yearly.

        Realistically, I have had a larger home file server than the entire corporate NAS/SAN at my last few jobs. And not talkin' about four-person mom-n'-pop shops here.

        And yet, they all insist on using tapes for backup. Drives me up a wall to see the inefficiency.

        After two years at my previous job, I finally convinced the head of IT to cycle through a handful of hot-swappable eSATA HDDs instead - After we had an actual serious crash and found tape after tape after worthless tape of complete unrecoverable garbage (despite never hearing a peep about corruption from the backup system). It took less than a week before I got to play the hero when we could recover a VP's "oops"ed spreadsheet in under a minute (as opposed to a day's work just to realize we had no viable backups).

        Tapes may count as a "safe" industry standard, but anyone using them really needs to reevaluate their business needs. They definitely do have their strong points at the very highest end, but the standard "weekly backup with a nightly incremental" ain't one of them.
    • by rvw (755107)

      I've missed my tape drive! My TR-3 1.6/3.2 circa 1996, was plenty for the hard drives available at time and pretty much a requirement for Windows 95 considering how often it killed itself, but within just a few years the hard drives far exceeded the capacity of tape. Fortunately by then Windows 2000 was out and life has been good since.

      Those were the days [spacious-mind.com], with that annoying sound of the cassette player [mainbyte.com] loading your program.

    • That is *not* what you do with a TR3.

      You drive it a couple of days, even a week if you're lucky, and then take it back to the mechanic--just like any other Triumph . . .

      hawk

  • by Shivetya (243324) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:37PM (#39515039) Homepage Journal

    I have twenty terabyte backups NIGHTLY. I am required to keep certain tables (files by another name) for seven years but fortunately not all of it has to be online. I have over twenty terabytes I have to have backed up each night and a specific number of these backups available both on and off site. I have copies of quarterly and yearly complete backups I have too keep.

    Show me a disk solution that is even remotely affordable. Cheap disk, maybe if you don't have any real amount of data and are not legally bound to keep it.

    • by OverlordQ (264228)

      A backblaze box [backblaze.com]. 1PB for about $55k.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A backblaze box [backblaze.com]. 1PB for about $55k.

        ZZZZZAAAP.

        That was the lightning strike that wiped out your $55K cheap solution where you're storing the data SOX requires you to keep.

        Ooops.

        Now you get to explain to the execs who now risk jail time why you were SOOOO fucking smart.

        Sometimes it really is about covering your ass with the legally-acceptable conservative approach.

        Nevermind all the money you wasted paying to keep those disks spinning....

        Know how much electricity 50 or 100 petabytes of tape use?

        None.

        • by arkane1234 (457605) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:56PM (#39516065) Journal

          SLAMMMM

          That's the sound of an asteroid impacting the building holding any backups occurring.

          SMASHHHH

          that's the sound of the building that holds all computer equipment for the business, and it's just been ran into by a steam powered locomotive that oddly wasn't on tracks!

          DERRR

          That's you... for not understanding that there are protective measures already in place in data centers. For things that you just can't stop (the above...), you don't lose sleep over and you have redundant locations. (if it's that important)

        • by whoever57 (658626) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @06:44PM (#39516555) Journal

          That was the lightning strike that wiped out your $55K cheap solution where you're storing the data SOX requires you to keep.

          Ooops.

          Now you get to explain to the execs who now risk jail time why you were SOOOO fucking smart.

          You would probably get a pay raise for this. Backups destroyed with plauasible deniablility. Perfect! Your employer doesn't want the backups, they are required to store them, but if they are accidentally deleted, well, that's just convenient when the SEC or some other agency comes calling.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You have way too much porn.

    • by bheading (467684)

      People who think tape is better because it's so cheap probably have not done their homework.

      Reliability is a major factor. Tape is delicate. If you put your tape in storage how can you be sure that it will restore again correctly when you try to reuse it ? How can you be sure that whatever tape drive you're using by then will work ?

      Disk backup is becoming common not simply because of cheap commodity disk drives, but because the software has improved so much as well, with technologies like ZFS and the simila

      • One thing you learn quickly when dealing with "legal requirements" is that reality has nothing to do with them. Is tape considered "legally sufficient", as long as you store it correctly? Then it IS sufficient, provided you store it correctly. Whether you can actually restore or whether you cannot.

        Why? Because all that matters is whether or not you get fined when you cannot restore your data. Not whether or not you can actually restore it.

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        When was the last time you heard of a bank, credit card company, airline reservation system, etc losing data because of bad backups? Never? All of that stuff is backed up on tape. Tape backup systems have been making multiple copies of tapes, and periodically testing the tapes, and getting them offsite (in very cheap storage) for at least 4 decades.

        From my experience, the number of disks that would not spin up after sitting unused for a long period far outnumbers the number of tapes that were unreadable

      • by lgw (121541)

        Reliability is a major factor. Tape is delicate. If you put your tape in storage how can you be sure that it will restore again correctly when you try to reuse it ? How can you be sure that whatever tape drive you're using by then will work ?

        Tape is incredibly reliable - if that tape worked the day you made it (which somehow people never learn to check, despite every major backup software product supporting doing that automatically). Some times tapes and tape drives fail in use, just like disks. But once that tape is stored, it's good for a couple of decades (depending on format, of course, low-end tape sucks).

        You just can't beat the reliability of not being on. Every /.er should know why RAID is not backup - just delete a file and see. Cop

        • by whoever57 (658626)

          Tape is incredibly reliable - if that tape worked the day you made it (which somehow people never learn to check, despite every major backup software product supporting doing that automatically). Some times tapes and tape drives fail in use, just like disks. But once that tape is stored, it's good for a couple of decades (depending on format, of course, low-end tape sucks).

          Which nicely makes the point that I have been making here on /. for a while. Tape is great for archives, while hard drives are great f

      • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

        LTO tapes have between 15 to 30 years of life if you're using them for archival purposes (i.e. writing once and storing). Even if you're using them for daily backups in a weekly or two-weekly rotation you're probably going to get 5 to 10 years of life out of a tape.

        I've had both RAID1 and RAID5 systems crash and burn ("proper" RAID, not cheapo-RAID) and have to be restored from the tape back up. I've also had tapes fail (although being LTO, they were picked up by the built-in write-verify procedure). But

    • by Tassach (137772)

      And how much of that 20TB changes from day to day? How fast is the data set growing? What is your business case for doing a full daily backup versus incremental / transaction log backups?

      20TB isn't really all that huge by Big Data standards. The project I'm working on currently uses a ~60TB data set which grows at around 1TB/month. Without knowing specifics I can't architect a solution for you or estimate costs, but I've built several systems using Hadoop [apache.org] to solve this kind of problem. "Affordable

  • I used to have a tape deck in my PC 20 years ago for backup, but I always thought the tech pretty much died, but now I'm curious, I have 3TB of storage in my current PC and I haven't quite been able to afford the hard disks to fully backup everything, but if tape is so cheap and fast (for sequential writes anyway, which is all that's important here), is it readily available for home backup use?

    heheh, I could start using tar (Tape ARchive) for what it was originally intended for.

    • I used to have a tape deck in my PC 20 years ago for backup, but I always thought the tech pretty much died, but now I'm curious, I have 3TB of storage in my current PC and I haven't quite been able to afford the hard disks to fully backup everything, but if tape is so cheap and fast (for sequential writes anyway, which is all that's important here), is it readily available for home backup use?

      Yep, price is the key here. I also had a tape drive 20-ish years ago (QIC-30, I think, with 60GB per tape cartridge). Nowadays, I find it hard to beat the external USB disk for backup. Our main server at home has 6TB of disk, and backs itself up regularly onto 3 cheap 2TB USB drives which are attached to it. Since these USB drives cost only a bit over euro100 each, they are duplicated with the other copy cycled out every few weeks. What would be the comparable price for tapes (1 drive, at least 2 copies fo

    • by jimicus (737525)

      The tapes themselves are cheap. The drives that use them are not.

      • by msauve (701917)
        BINGO!

        It's not $25/TB, as the article says. One must also consider the cost of the drives in relation to the amount of info which needs to be stored.

        I've got between 1 and 2 TB which is important to backup. If I could pay $50 per backup, it would be great. But, it's more like $2500 + $25/TB. For what I need, a $125 2 TB hard drive or two is cheaper and faster (and probably more reliable, too).
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedyNO@SPAMtpno-co.org> on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:38PM (#39515053) Homepage

    Perhaps the medium is, but the related technology that makes the medium useful isn't. The drives can run thousands of dollars, and require specific technologies on the servers. On top of that you need software to run it, AND competent backup admins that can handle it.

    Not that disk based solutions are significantly better, but they certainly have the ability to be significantly less complex ( which is always a good thing ).

    • With LTFS making data compatible between different vendors' hardware, we can now hope for cheaper, non-branded drives. I'm hoping in a few years I'll be able to afford my own Grandfather-father-son [wikipedia.org] backup scheme for data at home.
    • by jimicus (737525)

      RTFA. LTFS - made possible in LTO5 - allows you to mount a tape like it's a disk. No need for specific software.

    • by dkf (304284)

      Perhaps the medium is, but the related technology that makes the medium useful isn't. The drives can run thousands of dollars, and require specific technologies on the servers. On top of that you need software to run it, AND competent backup admins that can handle it.

      Not that disk based solutions are significantly better, but they certainly have the ability to be significantly less complex ( which is always a good thing ).

      The costs of SSDs start to look quite good when you're dealing with long-term preservation of a lot of data too. Yes, the storage cost itself isn't wonderful, but the fact that it is small and dense and solid state and able to be safely kept online (instead of having to physically move it about) greatly cuts the cost and risks of it. There's some interesting work [lockss.org] going on in this area, and the answers being arrived at are often not at all intuitive.

      • by lgw (121541)

        Nothing online is safely archived, ever. A tape stored a mile underground in a nuke-proof limestone cave is pretty damn robust. A tape stored offsite with any sort of archive company is as safe from employee malice as you can reasonably be.

        There's little simpler than a tape sitting on a shelf, really.

        There's no solid evidence yet of the durability of SSDs, either, and lots of warning signs, though I guess that's when in active use. Are there even any claims yet about data durability when SSD memory is st

    • --
      Ever notice how people remember posters by their sigs and not their names?

      I had to laugh at this. Only because I can think of two sigs I see here often "I changed my web server to port 6502, long live CPU wars" and "Windows is like the faint smell of piss in a subway" but I couldn't tell you their names.

      • by mspohr (589790)

        Insensitive clod...
        I have sigs turned off so I don't have to read all that drivel over and over.

  • Does that mean this stack of cassette tapes is now "in" again? Alright!! "Moving Pictures" on tape FTW!! Where's my WalkMan...?

  • ... is huge! Now even a home user can have a tape robot for back up without worrying to be tied to a specific vendor. Well, maybe... but I can dream :)
  • Tape storage capacity is great, and the streaming speed is also great. but the seek times are ridiculous. This is why tape is dead to me. If I want to restore a single 1gb file from a 800gb tape.. it could take a very long time. If i want to restore a single 1gb file from a hard disk it is pretty much instantaneous.
    • It takes 2-5 minutes. Hardly ridiculous. I usually told people 15 minutes unless I had to request the tape from off-site storage. Plenty of time to finish my coffee, wrap up my current task, etc. If I did half a dozen restores in a year, that was a busy year for restores. If you're restoring single files from tape on a regular basis, someone's doing it very, very wrong.

    • by bws111 (1216812)

      I use a system that does backups first to DASD, then to tape. Restoring a file from tape takes maybe 5-10 minutes, including the time waiting for the robot to mount the volume. Hardly a 'very long time'.

    • Depending on how the data is written (with nice file marks), you can forward the tape fairly quickly. Sure, copying it from a hard disk is pretty quick, but the idea of tape archives are just that - archives. Don't expect to use it as extra storage like a hard drive.
  • Um, no (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:43PM (#39515127)

    'Over the last two years, disk drives have gotten bigger, they've gone from 1TB to 3TB, but they haven't gotten faster. They're more like tape. Meanwhile, tape is going the other direction, it's getting faster,' said Mark Lemmons, CTO of Thought Equity Motion, a cloud storage service...

    Hmmmm, sounds as if you're selling something...

    1) Big drives are still random access, tape isn't.
    2) Faster moving tape is more prone to catastrophic breakage than slower moving tape. (Although both are way more prone to The Bad Thing (TM) than disk drives are.
    3) Azimuth alignment between ostensibly "identical" tape drives -- hilarity ensues.
    4) Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

  • by Hartree (191324) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @04:47PM (#39515167)

    Tape never died. It was still used for a lot of large applications.
    It's just that for some things, disks got cheap enough and reliable enough to displace tape.
    Part of that was the tremendous resources put into disks with the explosion of consumer use.
    High capacity tapes were a much smaller market and one that could support high cost. It looks like tape is just catching up.

    I for one welcome our huge cheap tape library overlords! ;)

  • LTO-5 Drives are $2000-$3000. Even though the tapes are comparatively cheap, you're still stuck with rubber bands driving a flywheel turning the spools.
    And if you are waiting for cheap Chinese knock-offs... well good luck with that. I'm not convinced that consumer's are going to be that good at keeping the tapes safe, magnetic free and away from the cat/dog/monkey peeing on it.

    • by jimicus (737525)

      You won't see any cheap Chinese knock-offs in the west for two reasons:

      1. Patents.
      2. Cheap chinese knock-offs are only cheap if they're being made by the million. Which it's vanishingly unlikely would happen with a tape drive.

  • An enterprise quality LTO-5 tape drive is $1000, and tapes are $100 each. Compare that to an enterprise disk-to-disk backup solution that is $15000 for the hardware and another $5000 for the software. If you are in a business that is only open 8-5, meaning you have a large window to do backups on nights/weekends, which do you think your boss will make you go with?

  • by slaker (53818) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:02PM (#39515353)

    About a year ago, staring at never-ending rsyncs between four boxes containing ~12TB of data apiece, I decided that it would be cheaper and easier for me to move to tape rather than continually duplicate data across RAID5 volumes and hope I never have a disk failure and a hard error on any of the remaining drives. I managed to get a Quantum Superloader (LTO4) and a dozen tapes for about $1600. There has been a learning curve with the setup, but there's just no other practical way to deal with tens of terabytes of information.

    I was able to move to a single storage machine and switch off a bunch of noisy, hot, power-hungry systems. I was glad to make the switch and I wish I had done it sooner,.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      You know, there's a nasty little secret about tapes.

      You are NOT supposed to reuse them. Certainly you aren't going to be encouraged by and of the relevant vendors to treat them as interchangeable with random access media like a hard drive.

      So you probably need a LOT more tapes then you seem to be using. That get's expensive quick.

      The tech has it's caveats.

  • It looks to me like disk is not that much more expensive than tape. A 1.5TB LTO-5 blank tape is $52.58 [amazon.com], or $35/TB. A 4TB USB drive is $229.00 [bhphotovideo.com], or $57/TB. For backing up 8TB of fileservers at my job, I prefer USB drives. I can just bring them over from the server room and plug them into my laptop if I need to look back in time.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      How many times can you use the tape before your software vendor recommends you retire it?

      Tape is much more of a "consumable" than hard drives are.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:04PM (#39515379)

    Over the last two years, disk drives have gotten bigger, they've gone from 1TB to 3TB, but they haven't gotten faster.

    Technically they get faster every time the density increases, as there is more data passing under the head in a certain time and, it takes less travel to seek over a certain amount of data...

  • DIE TAPE, DIE! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Y-Crate (540566)

    Nobody I work with in media production really wants tape to stick around as a day-to-day medium. Even medium-term archival use is a pain.

    The issue is that hard drives are a self-contained solution. If you give someone a hard drive, they have all of the data and physical infrastructure needed to access and use the data contained within. The most elusive component is often a spare cable.

    If you give someone an HDCam tape, they have to go find an HDCam deck. While a hard drive demands a Firewire or USB port tha

  • by lanner (107308) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @07:21PM (#39516913)

    For those who are not familiar with tape, LTO is the current technology. It is a vendor neutral/open standard, unlike DLT (Compaq), AIT (Sony), DAT (sucked), Mammoth (Exabyte), and others. Basically, it got commoditized after a long long fight to keep prices high and customers locked in to certain vendor technology.

    I would really like to hear what people know about this process of standardization with tapes. It took forever for this to happen.

    Because every tape and autoloader has been so different, it has been really hard for software vendors to write applications to support this huge number of libraries. Just as an example, Bacula, one of the most popular open-source backup apps out there has no support to eject a tape. I kid you not, if you use Bacula, you gotta bust out the mt eject command after telling Bacula to release the tape.

    The great thing about LTO is that they recently added hardware encryption and partitioning in LTO5, along with a density increase. I don't know what the current status on LTO6 is, but I don't expect to see anything for another year or two. LTO5 just came out one year ago.

    DLT S4 was keeping the density war up with DLT4 (800GB native), but Quantum killed it back in 2007 and there will not be a DLT S5. Anecdotally, I have a lot of trouble with my at-home DLT S4 drive that I've never seen with LTO3/4 drives. The problem seems to be that some tapes just go bad after awhile and despite Quantum's "lifetime guarantee", they will tell you to go f-- yourself if you try to RMA a two year old tape with four or five writes on it.

    The one notable exception to this commoditization is Sun/Oracle's StorageTek T10000 tapes, which are something like 5TB. However, Oracle is not a research company; they will eventually just go LTO too is my guess. They already make LTO stuff.

    Personally, I have a Quantium DLT S4 drive for my home backups, along with a small software RAID array that does nightlies. It has the benefit of being able to store everything I've got on a single tape. I use a custom script with GNU tar.

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