The 1TB Barrier : Does Tape Have What it Takes?


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Several factors have triggered the growth in enterprise storage needs, most notably the Internet. The meteoric growth of multimedia enriched Web pages, e-commerce transactions, and the Web's vast and ever changing storehouse of documents account for a large part of the anticipated 500 percent growth in enterprise storage needs over the next few years. Thus, it stands to reason that the future of enterprise storage must not only have to include improved capacity, but also a significant increase in data rate, reliability, capacity of off-line storage technologies such as tape. But do we really need 1 TB tape cartridges? The answer, it would seem, is yes.

Data storage has become central to the information technology infrastructure According to Bruce Masters, IBM's senior program manager of worldwide tape product marketing, as customers' data needs continue to grow by leaps and bounds, the data will need to be secured in more cost effective manners. Large capacity tape, AKA 1 TB, can help to provide a number of user benefits by helping to minimize floor space consumption, reduce the number of tape mounts, and reduce library slot consumption helping to achieve attractive user operation cost targets."

Saurin Shah, director of advanced technology and applications at media manufacturer Imation, believes that the need for 1 TB tape cartridges really comes from two perspectives. "From an application perspective, companies that have a need to store images and audio require higher capacity storage," he says. For example: Shah points out that movies for HD television need 2 TB of space to be stored uncompressed. "This is one of the factors driving the need for higher storage capacity because this data is not compressible," he continued. (Note: this type of data is essentially pre-compressed and cannot be compressed again without altering the integrity of the data). From the other standpoint - data center products - Shah says the answer is simple. The needs of traditional IT storage have changed and the only way to keep up with these changes is to increase storage capacity and transfer rates.

"The questions that customers ask about storing their data are as varied as the requirements of their applications, says Shah. "How fast can I access my data? How much can I store in a single device? What is the cost per megabyte and the total cost of managing my data? How secure is my data? How portable is my data?" Shah says that for a broad set of applications, the answer is removable data ranging from floppy disks, CDs to DVDs storing from a few megabytes to a few gigabytes, through network tape libraries storing from a dozen to a hundred gigabytes on each cartridge, to enterprise data center storage applications that rely on high-speed, high-capacity tape cartridges storing hundreds of gigabytes on each cartridge to manage and safeguard terabytes of critical business data.

The development of 1TB tape technology
There have been a lot of technical and competitive developments in the tape storage industry in 2002. Quantum announced Super DLT 320 - Imation and O-Mass announced an initiative to develop a new tape format, Sony plans to roll out SAIT later this year, and tape technology has come to the forefront following the events of September 11, 2002 as it relates to disaster recovery. Perhaps most significantly, back in April, IBM demonstrated writing 1TB of data to tape. "I think this is a remarkable achievement that helps position IBM as a leader in tape development," says Masters. According to Masters, The 1 TB tape cartridge is part of IBM's enterprise tape roadmap that is planned to have interim products beginning at 200 GB capacities leading to the 1 TB technology in a few years. And, Shah says that tape systems as a whole are on a solid path of density growth, with capacity to deliver a 1 TB tape cartridge before 2008.

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