Data Storage

9 Reasons Why, for Modern Tape, It’s a New Game with New Rules

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Fred Moore of Horison Information Strategies, a long-time storage industry expert and consultant, recently published a 2024 update of his report entitled “Tape. New Game. New Rules”.

This updated report provides a focus on how modern magnetic data tape is solving for IT challenges including runaway data growth, economic pressure, sustainability issues, cybercrime and the reliability that’s needed for the long term preservation of data. And that data that has also grown dramatically in value as we learn to analyze it and derive competitive advantage from it.

Below are 9 reasons why today’s modern tape systems represent a new game with new rules. Taken together, they make a compelling case for many to revisit the rich value proposition that tape has to offer now and well into the future.

LTO Ecosystem Extends Roadmap

In 2022, the LTO Program Technology Provider Companies (TPCs), HPE, IBM and Quantum Corporation, announced an updated LTO technology roadmap that extends the LTO Ultrium standard through 14 generations. The roadmap calls for tape capacities to double with each new generation, with LTO-14 delivering up to 1,440 TB (1.44 PB compressed) per tape. The new LTO roadmap extension is more relevant than ever and at this point no other storage technologies have revealed a comparable multi-generational roadmap.

LTO-9 Adds Capacity and Features

LTO-9 is the latest LTO generation bringing new functionality to tape including higher capacity, data rate, access time and reliability improvements.  LTO-9 increased the native cartridge capacity of LTO-8 by 50% to 18 TB (45 TB compressed) and increased drive throughput (11%) up to 400 MB/sec enabling a single LTO-9 drive to write up to 1.44 TB/hour. A new feature for the LTO family with LTO-9, oRAO (Open Recommended Access Order) reduces initial file access times to first byte of data by as much as 73%.

Record Capacity Achieved with TS1170 Tape Storage System

2023 marked the debut of a new ultra-high-density tape drive with a native storage capacity of 50 TB in a single cartridge and capacities up to 150 TB per cartridge with 3:1 compression. The IBM TS1170 storage system represents the world’s highest cartridge capacity ever announced and enables data intensive secondary storage applications including AI, big data, archiving, cloud computing, and analytics to significantly reduce their total cost of ownership.

Further Improvements Made in Tape Media Longevity

In 2019, Fujifilm and JEITA (Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association) officially confirmed the longevity of Barium Ferrite magnetic signal strength to be stable for at least 50 years based on studies of LTO-7 tapes. Prior to this confirmation, the number of years for LTO tape longevity had been rated up to 30 years.

Tape Leads Reliability Ratings

Since LTO-1 first came to market in 2000 with a native capacity of 100 GB, the capacity of LTO cartridges has increased by 180 times and data rates have increased by 20 times. Over the same period, the specified uncorrectable Bit Error Rate (BER) of LTO cartridges has improved by a factor of 1000, three orders of magnitude improvement. LTO-9 provides an industry leading uncorrectable bit error rate of 1×1020 compared to the highest HDD BER at 1×1017. A BER of 1×1020 corresponds to one unrecoverable read error event for every 12.5 exabytes of data read. Today, both the latest LTO and enterprise tape products are more reliable than any HDD (or SSD).

Tape Reduces CO2, eWaste and TCO

Moore cites key stats from Improving Information Technology Sustainability with Modern Tape Storage, a research paper issued by Brad John’s Consulting that compared an all data on HDD solution to an all-tape solution and to an active archive that moved 60% of the HDD resident (low activity) data to tape. Moving 60% of HDD data to tape for 10 years reduced carbon emissions by 58% and electronic waste was reduced by 53%. Moving 60% of HDD data to tape, results in a 46% TCO savings. Moving all data to tape results in a 78% cost reduction.

Tape Air-Gap Thwarts Cybercrime

The tape air gap, inherent with tape technology, has ignited significant interest in storing data on air-gapped tape. The “tape air gap” means that there is no electronic connection to the data stored on a removeable tape cartridge therefore preventing a malware attack on stored data. HDD and SSD systems remaining online 7x24x365 are always vulnerable to a cybercrime attack.

Data Protection Strategies Evolving with Tape

Using tape to backup HDDs was the original data protection strategy, but having one backup copy is no longer sufficient. The widely accepted and genetically diverse 3-2-1-1 Backup Strategy states that enterprises should have three copies of backup data on two different media types, one copy offsite and one air gap copy. Combining the tape air gap copy with available tape drive encryption and available WORM (Write Once Read Many) tape strengthens any data center cyber resiliency strategy.

Active Archive Leverages Tape

As the amount of secondary storage data soars, new technology tiers are emerging in secondary storage including the Active Archive, Traditional Archive and Deep Archive to address many new use cases. Many data management products now support tape as an object storage target using S3 services. Combining the open tape file system LTFS with tape partitioning, data mover software (HSM, etc.), an HDD array or NAS in front of a tape library creates an active archive.

In Conclusion

At least 80% of the world’s digital data is optimally suited to reside on secondary storage and this amount could reach nearly 7 ZBs by 2025. In response to this, the tape ecosystem has significantly expanded its capabilities in recent years. Tape has also become the leading pure storage solution to defend against cybercrime by seamlessly integrating air gap, encryption and WORM capabilities. Roadmaps signal that the trend of steady tape innovation will continue well into the future. Tape is the greenest storage technology and can significantly reduce carbon emissions and eWaste from data center operations. More large-scale tier 2 data centers are determined to contain their infrastructure costs and improve their sustainability metrics. They will be motivated to rethink existing data storage practices and take advantage of advanced magnetic tape as they approach exabyte scale. Combined with improved access times, faster data rates, a 50-year media life, lowest TCO and the highest device reliability, modern tape has the greatest potential to address the massive capacity demands of the zettabyte era.

To read the full report:


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New 50 TB Tape System a Bellwether for the Tape Industry

Reading Time: 4 minutesHaving lived most of my life in the Northeast, and having endured many cold and snowy winters, I was always jealous of the nice weather in California. Then to add to my jealousy, California was frequently referred to in the press as a “bellwether” state, particularly in politics. The term often applies to a geographic region where political tendencies might predict the eventual results for the entire country. In economics, a bellwether is a leading indicator of an economic trend.  When it comes to the data tape industry, I think it’s safe to say that the 50 TB tape system recently announced by Fujifilm and IBM is a bellwether for tape technology.  


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5 Essential Reasons Why Tape Should Be Part of the Backup Process

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Reflecting on World Backup Day coming up on March 31st, I recall coming across the following quote that recently appeared in an industry newsletter from an IT executive that said:

“For years IT administrators have worked hard to back up an increasing tsunami of data, and with each passing year, that has become harder to manage. In some cases, backup has been abandoned altogether. That is a precarious place to be.”

Indeed, a very precarious and dangerous place to be considering the increasing value of data for data-driven organizations. Today’s modern and highly advanced data tape systems can help solve the problem.

Here are five of the top reasons why tape should be part of the backup process:

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Preservation or Deletion: Archiving and Accessing the Dataverse New Report by John Monroe of Furthur Market Research

Reading Time: 4 minutesJohn Monroe, a long-time storage industry expert and Gartner analyst, now an independent consultant  with his own company (Furthur Market Research), recently published a new report entitled “Preservation or Deletion: Archiving and Accessing the Dataverse”. This report is a follow-up to John’s initial report entitled “The Escalating Challenge of Preserving Enterprise Data”, and is co-sponsored by Fujifilm, IBM and Twist Bioscience. This new report looks at likely growth rates of new enterprise capacity shipments required to store the ever-expanding “dataverse” and manage the swelling installed base of enterprise-grade SSD, HDD and tape media from 2023 to 2030. The findings and conclusions in John’s report clearly suggest that the status quo in storage strategies is not sustainable. Below are some summaries and excerpts taken from the report and a link is provided to view/download the full report.

Relentless Growth of the Dataverse

John provides a forecast for SSDs, HDDs and tape capacity shipments and the growing installed base from 2023 to 2030. With a CAGR of 30.7%, new shipments of enterprise storage capacity will hit 1.74 ZB in 2023 (that’s up from .95 ZB in 2020) and exceed 11.0 ZB in 2030. Meanwhile, the active installed base of enterprise storage will grow from 6.4 ZB in 2023 to 35.7 ZB in 2030. In a worst-case 25% CAGR scenario, new shipments of enterprise storage capacity will grow to 8.0 ZB while the active installed base expands to 26 ZB in 2030.

However, those forecasts could change dramatically if a not unlikely growth rate of 35% or even 45% should unfold. At 35% CAGR, we would see new capacity shipments of 14.7 ZB with an active installed base of 45 ZB in 2030. (Note: it takes 50 million 20 TB HDDs or 22 million LTO-9 tapes at 45 TB compressed capacity to store just one single zettabyte).

Evolving Data Temperatures

John also provides a breakdown of data temperatures depicted in a classic pyramid with Hot data at the top, followed down the pyramid by Warm, Cool, Cold and finally Frozen data layers. By 2030, the Cold and Frozen data layer will be the largest segment at 61% of stored data. This is largely  because of the answer to the implied question posed in the title of the report “Will we preserve or delete our data?” In John’s surveys of end users across different vertical markets, almost all of the IT managers he spoke with specified “indefinite” retention periods for the vast majority of their data, even if frequency of access declined to seldom if ever. We will be storing and maintaining an ever-increasing amount of enterprise data that has aged for more than five years.

Massive Revenue Opportunity Ahead

With a majority of data being stored long term in Cold and Frozen layers requiring lower cost per GB and more energy efficient technologies, John conservatively estimates revenue for enterprise storage devices in these tiers will range from $8.8 B to $15.7 B in 2030, up from $5.1 B in 2023. This bodes well for new generations of tape and emerging technologies like DNA storage that will change the current trend of storing so much of this type of data on expensive and energy intensive SSDs and HDDs.

On Sustainability

The report goes on to show that energy consumed by maintaining the installed base of SSDs and HDDs between 2020 and 2025 would consume over 15,000 megawatts of power while the tape installed base for the same period would consume just 18 megawatts, an 838 X difference. In John’s own words:

“It is obvious that HDDs and perhaps a significant number of SSDs are handling far too much of the Cold/Frozen workloads at far too great a cost/GB while consuming an inordinate share of available energy”.

Limited HDD and SSD Production Capabilities

Because the HDD makers have fiscal concerns about investing unprofitably in future CAPEX in the face of uncertain demand and growing SSD incursions, John fears the HDD industry will not adequately invest to be able to deliver ~5 ZB, much less ~8 ZB, of enterprise-grade media per year from 2028 to 2030. And given the recent precipitous price erosions—the price for raw NAND dropped by more than 70% during 2H22—and the inevitability of future supply/demand imbalances and the attendant price fluctuations, John also has growing doubts that the NAND industry will spend the necessary hundreds of billions of dollars to be able to deliver ~1 ZB, much less ~2-3 ZB, of enterprise-grade SSD storage capacity per year from 2028 to 2030. But even new shipments of ~6-10 ZB of expensive, enterprise-grade SSD and HDD media may be insufficient to meet global demand in 2030.

Resurgence in Tape Shipments

The report goes on to say that with limited SSD and HDD production capabilities looming and the increasing need for cost-effective and sustainable storage, the demand trend for new generations of tape, DNA data storage and even optical technologies may be altered drastically. Regarding tape specifically and considering recent hyperscale market adoption, the report suggests:

“There will be a resurgence in tape shipments for a variety of reasons based on expanding demand on multiple fronts, relative data temperature and time-to-data needs based on access frequency, and lower costs of data retention and power consumption, as well as limited HDD and SSD production capabilities. Tape could well grow to at least two zettabytes delivered by 2030”.

In Conclusion

The data centers of the future will need everything the SSD, HDD and tape industries can manufacture and deliver, as well as requiring new DNA and perhaps other enterprise storage technologies. Availability and sustainability challenges, combined with the costs of managing the dataverse over increasingly lengthy time periods, will create new use cases for existing storage technologies and demand the creation of new, more cost-effective, and power-efficient storage technologies.

To read the full report:


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