Taking a Look Back and Forward at Tape Storage Trends

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By Peter Faulhaber

Last year was full of key milestones for the tape storage industry. The cost per terabyte and total cost of ownership (TCO) improved for tape-based storage and archive; tape became firmly entrenched in all of the major U.S. hyperscale data centers; and the tape “air gap” continued to be a compelling tool in combating cybercrime.

As we begin 2020, we expect even further momentum and demand for tape storage as data growth continues on an explosive path and new storage architectures and emerging technologies place increased demands on the need for more effective data management.

Here are a few of my predictions for the storage market in 2020:

  • Software-defined tape for object storage will emerge as a popular solution, providing the interface to download data from object storage systems to compatible tape systems using standard S3 APIs. Users will be able to write objects directly to tape in native form, in a self-describing, open format.  As a result, object storage users can leverage the value proposition of tape including lowest TCO, reliability and long term archivability.

  • According to IDC, the rapidly growing Data Sphere means demand for persistent storage will be in the multi-zettabyte range in 2020. The big data growth drivers including Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), HD video (4k, 8k), surveillance, gaming and other apps will demand cost-effective, long term tape storage.
  • New hyperscale data center markets will emerge in 2020 led by Internet and cloud service providers in markets like China and India. This will cause a shift in regional storage from USA-centric to global demand and present new opportunities for tape market growth.
  • Hybrid storage architectures combining the flexibility of cloud and the cost effectiveness of on-premises solutions will gain favor in 2020. While the overall trend for cloud storage is increasing, we are already seeing a degree of “claw-back” from cloud deployments based on higher than expected operating expenses. The emergence of edge computing will require on-premises storage solutions closer to where the data is being created.
  • The exploding IoT market with billions of installed devices will continue to expand in 2020 especially as 5G networks start to proliferate. AI tools will provide the analytics power to derive value from all of the big data generated by these devices. This combination of IoT data and AI will have a profound impact on the need for storage. Organizations will want to maintain access to data sets for longer periods of time to support a continuous cycle of data ingest, analytics, and inference. A dramatic increase in cost-effective and efficient storage capacity in the form of active archives, fueled by tape systems, will be demanded to support this model.

As a recent Tape Storage Council report states: “Tape has the greatest potential to meet the soaring capacity demands. Modern tape continues to drive reliability, capacity and data rates to the highest levels in the storage industry.” We look forward to continuing to provide innovative tape solutions that will guide us through 2020 and beyond.