5 Trends in Tape Storage

Enterprise Storage Forum content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

There are more tape storage trends in play in the enterprise market today than many realize. Far from becoming a technology backwater like CDs and DVDs, tape is going from strength to strength. It is used by some of the largest banks, insurance providers, scientific research, and data analytics firms in the world. 

See more: The Tape Storage Market

Tape Storage Trends

1. Tape as a Security Enhancement

Tape’s air gap has become a prized commodity in the fight against ransomware. Offline tape creates separation between data and the network. Whether tapes are stored by Iron Mountain or kept onsite for use in an automatic tape library, physical tapes isolate data from the web. Tape cartridges are easily removable, portable, and retrievable in case of a disaster. And in the event of a serious security breach, tape copies are far less likely to be infected and offer a rapid path to recovery. 

“The prevalence of ransomware exploded during the pandemic as the shift to remote work created more opportunities for threats to corporate networks,” said Phil Goodwin, an analyst at IDC. “With the native ability to provide air gap and fast restore, LTO tape will continue to be a core component of data management best practices.”

2. Tape as the Archiving Medium of Choice 

Modern enterprises are often required to retain data for periods such as seven, 10, or even 50 years. Hard disk drive (HDD)-based archives and appliances have fallen out of favor as costs spiral out of control as the data volume escalates. Tape has become the medium of choice for compliance reasons as well as for retaining vast amounts of data in case it may become valuable in the future. 

“Intelligent active archive solutions based on AI will classify massive amounts of data and automatically move it according to user-defined policy from expensive storage tiers to economy tiers,” said Betsy Doughty, VP of corporate marketing at Spectra Logic and co-chairperson of the Active Archive Alliance. “Archived data stays highly accessible and secure. 

“The data stays immediately accessible for file sharing and business/research analytics to support competitive advantage. Intelligent data tiering and automation have major roles in managing unstructured data at petabyte scale now and exabyte scale in the next five years.”

3. Tape Usage is Growing

LTO capacity shipments increased by four times between 2009 and 2019 according to Fred Moore, president of Horison Information Strategies. Although shipments were slightly down in 2020, they are likely to recover in 2021 and expand again from there for the next several years. 

“Despite the unexpected headwinds for many segments of the technology industry produced by the pandemic, overall LTO tape capacity shipped in 2020 was strong in context,” said Eric Bassier, senior director at Quantum. “There will be a return to the prior capacity growth trend in 2021 as companies return to making storage purchases, account for new trends requiring stronger security measures, and we continue to see shifts in purchases from older to newer generations of LTO tape.”

4. Tape Fosters Innovation 

Tape is a surprising hotbed of innovation. LTO Program technology provider companies (TPCs), Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM Corporation, and Quantum, have released a roadmap for LTO tape that goes out more than 10 years. It represents a much higher capacity growth than disk, a greater amount of storage density, and a higher level of efficiency. In other words, tape is outdoing disk when it comes to innovation. 

“LTO tape continues to keep pace with the IT market as current and emerging users discover new ways to incorporate it into their data protection practices,” Goodwin said. 

For example, LTO-9 has incorporated a feature known as Open Recommended Access Order (oRAO). oRAO enables the retrieval of tape content in a more efficient way. Instead of accessing the data on tape in a sequential order, oRAO takes advantage of a serpentine layout with multiple tracks and proposes a more rapid access pattern. 

According to testing at CERN, oRAO can lessen the positioning time anywhere from 30% to 70% than traditional sequential access (depending on compression and number of files being recalled). What this adds up to is the need for fewer tape drives for the data recall workflows. If more backup software vendors adopt this technology, it could seriously reduce the time needed for a restore.

“Our recall workflows will increase markedly from 2022, and this oRAO feature on LTO-9 comes right on time,” Bahyl said. “It can only be beneficial for storage and backup software vendors if they implement this feature as it significantly cuts down on positioning times when recalling many files from tape.” 

5. Tape Harnesses AI 

Enterprise Strategy Group defines active archive as “a tiered storage topology/solution that gives IT systems or human end-users access to data through a common, unified file system that automatically retrieves and places that data on the appropriate storage tier.” 

These storage tiers may be multi-vendor, on-premises and/or the hybrid cloud, and comprise different storage media types. Software intelligence is the key to automatically storing accessible data in the most appropriate storage class according to its use and purpose. Metadata provides searchability and accessibility no matter where data is located, keeping data easily retrievable. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are being harnessed within tape storage and active archive systems to enable trending, access patterns, activity logging, automatic data movement, and compliance analysis.

“Emerging automation technologies based on AI use data and workflow intelligence to seamlessly manage data across any storage type,” said Floyd Christofferson, CEO at StrongBox Data

See more: How Tape Storage is Used by Banco Bradesco, Treasury of Puerto Rico, Computational Medicine Center, Calgary Police Department, and Franklin Pierce University: Case Studies

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

Get the Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Cloud Insider for top news, trends, and analysis.

Latest Articles

15 Software Defined Storage Best Practices

Software Defined Storage (SDS) enables the use of commodity storage hardware. Learn 15 best practices for SDS implementation.

What is Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)?

Fibre Channel Over Ethernet (FCoE) is the encapsulation and transmission of Fibre Channel (FC) frames over enhanced Ethernet networks, combining the advantages of Ethernet...

9 Types of Computer Memory Defined (With Use Cases)

Computer memory is a term for all of the types of data storage technology that a computer may use. Learn more about the X types of computer memory.