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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The Sustainable Preservation of Enterprise Data, a New Report by John Monroe of Furthur Market Research and Brad Johns of Brad Johns Consulting LLC

Reading Time: 4 minutesJohn Monroe of Furthur Market Research, a long-time storage industry expert and former Gartner analyst, together with Brad Johns, storage industry expert on TCO and energy consumption, recently published a new report entitled “The Sustainable Preservation of Enterprise Data”. This report is a follow-up to John’s most recent report, “Preservation or Deletion: Archiving and Accessing the Dataverse” March 2023, and his initial report entitled “The Escalating Challenge of Preserving Enterprise Data”, August 2022. The new report is co-sponsored by Cerabyte, Fujifilm, and IBM.

This new and in-depth report looks at refined forecasts for enterprise storage capacity shipments through 2035 and the growing installed base of enterprise storage comprised of enterprise-grade SSD, HDD, tape and future emerging technologies (new forms of tape, ceramics, DNA, optical, silica, and others). The findings and conclusions in this report point to the fact that enterprise storage will consume more and more of the available data center power budget and that IT managers must soon proactively deploy fewer SSDs and HDDs and more tape and enterprise emerging storage technologies in the future. This will be required to be in alignment with the total availability of energy, constrained IT budgets and ecological goals. Below are some summaries and excerpts taken from the report and a link is provided to view/download the full report.

A Dataverse of Stunning Dimensions

At the end of 2022, a year in which storage demand declined in unprecedented ways, the dimensions of the active installed base of enterprise data stored on SSD, HDD, and tape media still grew to 4.8 zettabytes (or 4.8 thousand exabytes, or 4.8 million petabytes), up a staggering 53x over the 91,000 petabytes (or 91 exabytes) in 2010. Despite another year of downturn in 2023, the authors still estimate the active installed base of enterprise data will exceed a massive 40 zettabytes in 2035, up more than 475x over 2010.

Cool, Cold or Frozen Data Dominates

The problem with all of this enterprise data is that it is perceived to be too valuable now, or potentially will be too valuable in the future, to be deleted. According to the authors, at least 70%, or more probably 80% of enterprise data will become cold after 60 days and will continue to be “cool”, “cold” or “frozen,” with infrequent access times of minutes to days to weeks to years to decades, with little or no need for the performance of SSDs and HDDs, but with greatly expanding needs for Sustainability, Immutability, and Security (SIS), which SSDs and HDDs can neither cost effectively nor power efficiently fulfill.

Concern for Data Center Energy Consumption

The power demands of enterprise storage will continue to increase as a percentage of the overall data center energy budget. The report shows a shift in the percentage of the data center energy budget dedicated to storage from 17% in 2020 to 29% in 2035.  According to the authors, data center managers must learn to integrate more cost-effective and power-efficient storage technologies. There are already a multitude of CO2 emission compliance regulations in place throughout the world (with much stricter regulations in Europe) and growing scarcities of total available energy for datacenters in many areas. Healthy ecosystems have become more crucial considerations in all IT purchasing decisions, and many data center managers will soon be forced—by upper-level management or by compliance regulations—to use tape and various enterprise emerging technologies as ultra-low-cost, sustainable storage alternatives. The report shows that tape and emerging enterprise emerging technologies, also referred to as the “active archive” tier by the authors, will consume 99% less energy than primary storage tiers of SSDs and HDDs.

Total Cost of Ownership Savings and a Shifting of Exabytes

The rapid growth of the dataverse creates not only energy consumption and CO2 emissions challenges but also cost challenges. The costs of managing multi-zettabytes over increasingly lengthy time periods will continue to swell, causing a steady migration of data to the active archive tier. In 2035, the authors project that the 5-year costs per terabyte for an SSD system will be 33x (up from 16x in 2020) and an HDD system will be 8x (up from 2.4x in 2020) compared to the 5-year cost per terabyte for an active archive system. Based on the 2023 CapEx and OpEx estimates in the report, for every exabyte of cold or frozen data moved from HDD to tape storage, total costs can be reduced by more than $16 million over five years. The estimated annual energy costs will also drop by almost $1 million per exabyte, and annual CO2 emissions can be reduced by almost seven kilotons. These substantial cost advantages combined with far lower energy consumption, lead the authors to believe that tape and enterprise emerging technology shipments will display consistent growth through at least 2035 and will exceed combined SSD+HDD exabyte deliveries in 2034.

In Conclusion

With the advent of new tape and enterprise emerging storage technologies, the authors have forecast that active archive shipments will expand to comprise more than 50% of the fresh enterprise zettabytes delivered in 2034 and 2035. In the cool, cold and frozen enterprise data layers—which have little or no real need for the performance of SSDs or HDDs, but have greatly expanding needs for Sustainability, Immutability, and Security—the most cost-effective and power-efficient technologies will inevitably prevail, according to the authors, because they make the greatest fiscal and ecological sense.

To read the full report:


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Looking Back at Storage in 2023 and Predictions for 2024

Reading Time: 7 minutesStorage industry analysts are saying that 2023 will be remembered for its historic downturn in demand. This may be so, due to hyperscaler digestion of previous year’s capacity shipments. But a few things remain constant, such as the growth of data driven by the proliferation of new applications in the digital data sphere and things like data intensive AI/ML. You can also add in the steady expansion of IoT including video surveillance applications. Another constant is the increasing value of data that users want to keep more of and for longer periods of time. Users also want ready online access to that data giving rise to the popularity of cost-effective and energy-efficient active archive solutions. So here are my highlights for 2023 and really bold predictions for 2024!

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Top 5 Reasons Why Offsite and Offline Data Tape Vaults are Still Thriving

Reading Time: 6 minutesI recently had the opportunity to visit a very unique data tape vault run by Vital Records, Inc. The location I visited is in Roxbury New Jersey, about an hour drive from New York City. What makes this tape vault known as VRI Roxbury, so unique is that it is 125,000 square feet of vault space situated between 30 and 50 feet underground. It was originally built by AT&T as a hardened command center bunker in the 1960’s. The facility is an intriguing blast from the past with relics of AT&T’s occupancy tastefully preserved. It was built to withstand natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires or dare I say, a nearby nuclear blast. In such an event, AT&T could continue to support the telecommunications needs of its clients, including the U.S. Military. So no expense was spared in building what is truly an engineering marvel below ground.

Vital Records purchased the facility in 1995 upon its decommissioning by AT&T and repurposed the space for protection and preservation of valuable enterprise data, most often in the form of millions of removable/portable data and video tapes. To say that the facility is fascinating would be an understatement. It is however, non-descript, at least upon arrival. VRI Roxbury is discreetly perched in the middle of desolate woods, atop a slight rise in the landscape, some 1,100+ feet above sea level, with nothing but a nameless security gate, a freshly painted parking lot, and a small anonymous structure housing an elevator entrance to accommodate pre-screened visitors and authorized employees at any time of day, 24/7.

Truth be told, this was not my first visit to VRI Roxbury. I had toured the facility some 20 years earlier while working for another data tape manufacturer. And while the facility has kept up with modern innovations such as security protocols including iris scans, temperature and humidity monitoring, hi-def video surveillance, new and improved inventory management techniques, it still essentially provides the same services today that it did 20 years ago. However, given several critical market dynamics, these services are more relevant today than ever before.

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How Tape Systems Help Scope 3 Carbon Emissions from Cloud Service Providers

Reading Time: 5 minutesAt least for now, climate change is getting worse. We actually had the hottest days on Earth this July with a record global average of 62.92 degrees Fahrenheit. That does not sound that hot but it’s an average including summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere. These were the hottest days since 1979 at least, and broke records previously set in 2016 of 62.46 degrees F.

Severe weather could be seen across the U.S. from record-setting triple-digit heat waves out West and down South plus record rainfall and flooding in the Northeast with some locations getting 10 to 12 inches of rain in a single day. Extreme weather can be found in Asia, Europe, really all over the world. Global warming plus an El Nino event where the Pacific Ocean is releasing excessive heat are to be blamed. Scientists are sounding the alarm again that we must curb carbon emissions or we can expect more of the same, only worse, in the years and decades ahead.

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5 Facts that Chief Sustainability Officers Need to Know about Data Storage

Reading Time: 5 minutesRecently I had the opportunity to meet with a newly appointed Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) at a major scientific research organization. In this new position that seems to be trending across many industries, this CSO has been tasked with the overall responsibility for understanding the organization’s energy profile and how its carbon footprint is spread across its many different departments and then to figure out what actions can be taken to help achieve its carbon reduction goals. With this understanding in place, the CSO will proceed to put downward pressure on the department heads to make meaningful change.

Given this background, the purpose of my call was to explain the role that today’s modern data tape can play in reducing power consumption and associated carbon footprint in data centers. Since this CSO really had no experience in large scale data operations, she was eager to listen given her need to start looking at every department to quickly identify opportunities for energy and carbon reduction. She will go after the low-hanging fruit first, but eventually no stone will be left unturned if her organization is to meet their aggressive sustainability goals.

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NAB Show Recap: Where Content Comes to Life…and Lives Forever!

Reading Time: 5 minutesThe National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) held their annual conference this week in Las Vegas. Some 68,000 attendees from broadcasters to screenwriters, advertisers and streamers, to producers and filmmakers were eager to learn about the latest in media and entertainment technology. Some 1,200 exhibitors set up shop in the Las Vegas convention center, including FUJIFILM with our FUJINON lenses, and Recording Media in the form of LTO 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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Highlights of IBM Report on Reducing Risk and Carbon Emissions in Media Disposal at End-of-Life

Reading Time: 4 minutesA new white paper written by Dr. Shawn Brume of IBM entitled Reducing Risk and CO2e in the Disposition of IBM Physical Tape Media does a great job in answering what to do with tape media at end-of-life (EOL).

The report is timely as the industry is gaining interest and awareness of energy consumption in data storage driven by ESG directives. For example, a recent white paper by Brad Johns Consulting, Improving Information Technology Sustainability with Modern Tape Storage demonstrates the sustainability and cost-benefit of tape:

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