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How will the 1 TB tape technology affect the storage industry?
According to Masters, tape is an important part of users' storage hierarchy because it is removable, portable, and can provide infinite capacity. "It's removable/portable characteristics helps protect it from accidental and intentional destruction," he said. "In addition, large capacity tape can help keep the financial aspect of tape attractive as compared to disk alternatives." Shah feels that it is difficult to say how the 1 TB tape technology will affect the storage industry. "The most effective 1 TB tape cartridge will have to keep the same transfer rate as the 100 GB tape which is 15 megabytes per second, and the only published roadmap is from Sony which states that the transfer rate for its 1 TB tape is about 60 megabytes per second," he says. "The key to the success of the 1 TB tape cartridge is the transfer rate and right now it is longer than people are willing to tolerate," he continued. "But, keep in mind that the industry as a whole is always working on increasing capacity and transfer rates, and everyone is working on achieving a high transfer rate," he says.
Are there disadvantages of a 1 TB tape cartridge?
Masters seems to think some users may be concerned that having that much data on a single tape cartridge puts it at an increased risk. "It behooves the tape mechanism provider to integrate data integrity and reliability technology to help protect access to the data," says Masters. "In addition some users may choose to implement tape mirroring strategies for critical data," he continued. Shah says that at the present time, the major disadvantage is the transfer rate. "We have acknowledged that the transfer rate has to be high and clearly this is something that we all have to work on," he says. Masters says that the 1 TB tape cartridges will need to transfer data at speeds that allow the user to fill the tape in a 2-4 hour window. "That figure is approximately 8 to 10 times the speed of super tape drives today," says Masters. The 2-4 hour window is a key factor as it often all the time that is available for backup.
How much more data are these 1-TB tape cartridges capable of storing?
One of the biggest issues surrounding the 1 TB tape cartridge is exactly how much more data do these tapes hold as compared to the linear tape cartridges currently available, and do we really need that kind of capacity in a single unit? Consider that Generation 1 LTO, which has been available since 2000, has an uncompressed capacity of 100 GB. The 1 TB tape cartridge would be 10 times that amount. Still with all of these numbers, it's hard to conceptualize exactly how much data these 1 TB tapes are capable of storing. So, to put it in more simple terms - a 1 TB tape cartridge can hold as much data as 694, 444 floppy disks. Or if you like, it would equal 2 weeks, 2-days, 19-hours, and 12-minutes of continuous DVD movies. Interesting though thse figures are, the more relevant applications to enterprise storage users is that the 1 TB tape cartridge will obviously reduce the number of tape cartridges presently required to backup large multi-terabyte databases. Just how much of a reduction depends on what tape format standard is currently being used.
Will tape, as a storage medium, continue to be viable?
Shah says the industry is still very focused on the full capacity of tape as a storage medium. "Backup, restoring, and archiving - we see all of these applications of tape as having an advantage over other technologies in terms of cost and efficiency," says Shah. "Over the years, tape as a storage medium has gone down in price and maintained cost advantage and transfer rate," he concluded. General research bears this out. Although tape drives themselves are expensive, the media is relatively cheap considering it's portable and durable nature.
Masters concurs. "Tape is an important part of a user's storage strategy because since tape can be removed from the system at comparatively low costs, it can help provide high levels of disaster tolerance and business continuance."
In our continual drive for more capacity, it seems that by the time the 1 TB tape comes around, the industry will be more than ready for it. In the meantime, we'll just have to settle for the 300+GB capacity offered by today's tape drives.