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Data Storage IT

Recent Sales Hint That Tape For Storage Is Far From Dead 228

hightechchick writes "Staples' business-to-business sales of backup tape for storage are experiencing a bit of a revival. What's next, a return to dumb terminals and mainframes (a la cloud computing)?"
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Recent Sales Hint That Tape For Storage Is Far From Dead

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  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:02PM (#32528992)

    I'm guessing the story was posted by someone who does not know how to post a proper link.

    The actual story is here: []

  • Re:Real link (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:05PM (#32529020)

    This is called disk staging, any enterprise level backup system will have this.

    We can do our 1Gbps backups in the middle of the night to a disk array, then crank on the tapes all day long.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:06PM (#32529038)

    A lot of sales may be linked to the growth of Electronic Medical Records, which are going to be required for full Medicare reimbursement in a few years. Database backups are a must for those systems and tape is probably the most cost-effective answer.

  • by frooddude ( 148993 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:12PM (#32529122)

    The business I work for goes through tapes like they're used to make coffee. Primary use: legal escrow of source code.

  • Re:Real link (Score:3, Informative)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:13PM (#32529128)

    Tape sucks.

    I've used it for 25 years, with a variety of vendors, capacities and dozens of drives, and every single unit I've ever had failed, not only the tapes themselves, but also the drives. People can't remember to cycle tapes, tapes die and people don't notice, and you can't buy the tapes 3 years down the line.

    Disk is much simpler, and more robust.

    We finally realized that we were backing up a very reliable media with a very un-reliable one.

    Finally we switched to compressed backups stacked on cheap redundant network attached disk drives in small external enclosures. They can sit anywhere, even INSIDE the fireproof vault.

    The software for this is readily available from a number of sources and you can use your same "tower of Hanoi" media cycling schemes as you might for tape. Because backups are bundled into one large file they can be stored, cataloged, archived, rotated, and purged via automated means.

    For the small business, NAS drives make way more sense.

  • Re:Real link (Score:3, Informative)

    by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:23PM (#32529238)
    Example: My last gig was with the DOE working on the US site for the CMS experiment for the Large Hadron Collider. We had around 5PB of spinning disk and 17PB of LTO4 tape storage for the detector data (you can't really backup 17PB offsite for a reasonable cost). We'd have bad tapes quite often, and it didn't matter if you did a verify at the end of the tape write before it was stored by the robotics.
  • Re:Not news. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Just Some Guy ( 3352 ) <> on Thursday June 10, 2010 @06:55PM (#32529598) Homepage Journal

    Amanda works by backing up filesystems to dump files on the backup server, then writing those dump files all in one go. It might take an ancient system an hour to spool its dump to the backup server, but the tape doesn't have to worry about that.

  • Re:Not news. (Score:4, Informative)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @07:33PM (#32530044)
    Yep, but that's what it takes to keep it running above minimum speed, writing a single large filesystem volume takes longer than writing 4 volumes almost as large because the drive shoeshines with a single job. Minimum rate for the drive is 40MB/s, the best I have done with tuning on a 72 drive vraid6 volume is 35MB/s and average is closer to 25MB/s sustained but 4 jobs from the same array on different volumes will give me 100-120MB/s. All volumes are spanned across all disks so it's not a matter of more spindles being available, it's the latency in all the metadata lookups.
  • Re:Not news. (Score:3, Informative)

    by turing_m ( 1030530 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @07:59PM (#32530256)

    Please name a disk that can keep it up for the whole disk. []

    You appear to be right. The best write average is about 100MB/s. It's the reads that are near 120.

  • Re:Not news. (Score:2, Informative)

    by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @08:27PM (#32530502)

    Tapes are very cheap, LTO4 tapes hold 800GB (native, not compressed) and cost around $30.

    It's the drives that are expensive for home user -- no home user wants to pay $2000 for a tape drive.

  • Re:Real link (Score:3, Informative)

    by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @10:25PM (#32531154)
    While the data isn't backed up all in one spot, it can either a) be reconstructed from other data, b) regathered from the 800+ other facilities we distribute chunks of the data to, or c) recollected. It's cheaper than the $8-12 million it would cost to backup all 17PB offsite (and that's taxpayer money).
  • by paranoidd ( 575058 ) on Thursday June 10, 2010 @11:51PM (#32531606) Homepage
    IBM recently announced LTFS (Long Term File System), which allows one to operate LTO-5 tapes as if they were a normal file system.

    That's a very exciting technology which allows for the standardization of tape formats -- its specs are freely available in the LTO Consortium website [] and the implementation has been released under the GNU LGPL (see the LTFS website [] for links).

    Tapes are not dead, certainly!
  • Re:Not news. (Score:3, Informative)

    by WuphonsReach ( 684551 ) on Friday June 11, 2010 @02:37AM (#32532380)
    Tapes are small, disposable, cheap, reliable. Hard drives are maybe 2 of those.

    The media may be cheap, but the drives are expensive and sometimes proprietary. So you'd best be a big enough outfit to buy at least multiple drives. Not to mention that you need to replace tapes regularly. At $2000/drive and needing at least three, plus needing 60 tapes per year at $30ea... you could buy around 30-40 1TB hard drives, with carry cases or trays. And you need to lay out that $7500 right at the start, plus the $1800/year. That's a lot of money for a small business with under 20 employees.

    (And most tape drives are more like $3k to $4k each.)

    The big problem with tape for smaller shops is simply up-front cost. For $150, they can buy a single 1TB drive and use that to write backups to. Each week, they buy a new drive until they are rotating 5 or 6 of them. Or if they really need to get data offsite daily, they'll do a delta-backup over the WAN links. Or spend enough to have 10 hard drives in rotation.

    (We use a mix of backup over WAN links nightly/weekly combined with taking hard drives offsite weekly.)
  • Re:Not news. (Score:4, Informative)

    by totally bogus dude ( 1040246 ) on Friday June 11, 2010 @03:17AM (#32532512)

    Points in favour of tapes:

    - most backup software is designed to deal with tape libraries, not so much with shuffling B2D media around

    - most archive companies are built around storing tapes; though I suspect there are ones which could deal with hard disks in external caddies

    - tapes deal with stress from being transported continuously better than mechanical drives (also wear and tear of plugging and unplugging the interfaces all the time)

    - I think unused tapes age better than unused hard disks, but I've nothing to back that up

    Bandwidth to the tape drive itself rarely seems to be an issue for actual backups, since network and file I/O latency seem to be more significant issues. We never get anywhere near the maximum speed out of our LTO-4 drive, even when we're just duplicating data from the local array to the tape.

  • Re:Not news. (Score:3, Informative)

    by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Friday June 11, 2010 @09:33AM (#32534474)

    That's not much use if you want to be able to restore the individual files from the backup, which is nearly always desirable.

    Disaster-recovery-only backups are okay, but if you're spending the money to archive your data you normally want a bit more flexibility.

    Additionally there's the obvious problem of taking the server offline while you do the backup...

    If you're pulling individual files off of tape, you're probably doing it wrong.

    Backup across the network, to disk, first. You can build or buy a wide variety of arrays to do this for less than your tape drive costs, on average. Go large and rotate the storage mount points. We keep five days 'on line', and overwrite by schedule.

    Write THAT data to tape, to be sent offsite.

    On the upside, you can get any file from the last five days in less than an hour, without leaving your desk. More like fifteen minutes, really. Disks are for retrieval, tapes are for archive and disasters. Very clean, very simple, auditors love it.

    On the downside you've doubled your costs, have additional overhead, and are probably adding lag to your tapes by extending the time-to-tape by a full day.

    Still, though, if you can swing it, do.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein