Tape Losses Loom Large at Storage World

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User concerns were front and center at this week’s Storage World Conference — not the least of which were worries about data tapes after recent high-profile backup tape losses.

Most of the sessions at the Long Beach, Calif. conference steered clear of vendor trumpet-blowing, with user issues at the forefront. Thus, the more mundane aspects of storage such as backup methodologies and improving tape performance received just as much attention as sexier subjects like information lifecycle management (ILM), continuous data protection (CDP) and remote storage management. Some of the best attended sessions, in fact, dealt with how to solve everyday backup headaches or the everyday problems of tape management.

Tape and disk proponents sparred repeatedly, not surprising given numerous revelations of lost backup tapes in recent month. Surprisingly, the tape guys did more than rally ’round the flag. They laid out a strong argument about the limitations of disk, as well as an impressive roadmap for tape.

“Tape is by no means dead,” said Mark O’Malley, senior manager for business planning and development at Quantum’s storage devices group. “In fact, it is here to stay. Over 80 percent of end users still offload data to tape.”

On the other side of the fence, several vendors have adopted an aggressive stance in the tape backup wars. Data Domain of Palo Alto, Calif., for example, handed out bumper stickers saying, “Tape Sucks, Move On.” Its DD400 Enterprise Series offers capacity-optimized storage for backup and recovery. According to director of marketing Bart Bartlett, its compression methods shrink backups by an average of 95 percent. For an incremental backup, this works out to a savings of 80% or more compared to a traditional incremental.

Other vendors such as FilesX also criticized tape and complained of high failure rates and poor recovery.

“Tape is dead and disk is king,” boasted Aviram Cohen, vice president of product management at FilesX. “30 percent of backups, and probably a lot more, are not useable due to faulty tapes, faulty hardware or human error.”

These vendors laid out a convincing case for technologies such as VTL, CDP, massive array of idle disks (MAID) and other backup to disk arrangements. Copan Systems of Longmont, Colo., for instance, has assembled a MAID solution known as Revolution 200T. It provides 896 drives for a total of 224 TB in a single cabinet.


The biggest news of the show was the unveiling of UK-based Njini Inc. Instead of getting lost in the noise of a thousand press releases at Storage Networking World, the startup gained center stage for its launch and product announcements. It has coined a new term, information asset management (IAM), for a product suite that identifies the business value of data at its moment of origin.

Tape Sucks, Move On
While debates over the future of tape filled the halls at this week’s Storage World Conference, Data Domain took its message to the streets.

“We use content-aware metadata to create a set of policies based on what kind of file it is, where it should be stored, how important it is to the business and who should be able to access it,” said Phil Tee, chairman and CTO of Njini. “The idea is to give data policy so it manages itself.”

The heart of the product is the njiniEngine. It interrogates data at the point of origin using a process known as Identity@Origin to gather the business value of that data. It then drives four processes: intelligent storage that eliminates duplicates; moving data to the correct storage tier and setting how long information stays in a specific tier; compliance policing and tracking; and tagging to speed the search process.

“Our figures indicate typical storage costs per document run at around 30 cents,” says Tee. “We can cut that to about 12 cents.”

StorageTek chose SWC to announce IntelliStore, an intelligent archive and compliance product said to deliver 10 times the capacity at a lower entry cost than the nearest competitor.

Fujitsu Computer Products of America showcased its 2.5 inch serial ATA (SATA) and small form factor (SFF) serial attached SCSI (SAS) hard drives at the show. Ci Design of Anaheim also released a SAS/SATA II enclosure for its SR series of enclosure products.

ASNP Grows

SWC itself has the feel of a show on the rise. Celebrating its fifth anniversary, SWC’s attendance was slightly more than last year’s 1,200 total, though vendor after vendor noted far more traffic at their booths compared to last year. Absent were the legions of PR and sales staffers you sometimes find clogging up the floors at some shows. Here, the attendees appeared to comprise mostly end users.

Far from being adopters of the latest and greatest, these guys are talking about possibly adopting disk-based backup, replication, virtual tape library (VTL) and other technologies that are far from bleeding edge. Some are discussing a partial move off tape, but few have taken more than baby steps.

“With so recent incidents of identity loss via tape, some are wondering if they should get off tape,” said Charles Curtis, senior storage engineer at LanData Systems. “I’m more inclined to buy more tape libraries and more tape, and then manage everything internally rather than leaving tapes at a third-party DR facility.”

The user-centricity is linked to SWC’s partnership with the Association of Storage Networking Professionals (ASNP). ASNP staged its annual summit during SWC and provided many of the participants on the panels, as well as end-users willing to discuss their problems in “End User Perspective Case Studies.” As a result, the real-world concerns of the audience matched up well with the down to earth nature of the presentations.

Daniel Delshad, ASNP chairman and founder, briefed about 150 ASNP end users on the last night of the show on his organization’s mission to educate and empower members by providing educational resources, member meetings and professional development opportunities, as well as being a voice of advocacy for end user concerns within the storage industry.

“The storage world is changing as end users now have a voice,” said Delshad. “We have grown over 40% since last year’s SWC and now have 2,143 members.”

That breaks down to 27 chapters — mostly in the U.S., but also with chapters in Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Korea, Nigeria, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK and Colombia.

The ASNP Summit keynote speaker Alan Nuns, GM of global strategy at Chevron, managed to drop a few jaws among seasoned storage veterans when he trotted out the basics of his storage environment — 1,700 TB and growing at 2 TB per day. He responded to quips about high gas prices by laying out how storage technology has advanced the art of exploration, cutting the amount of test drilling required by a factor of five.

“Without the use of 3D seismic data and a massive repository of well managed data, gas might cost $6 a gallon by now,” said Nuns. “Since we implemented our global storage network, we have gotten much better at finding new reserves of oil.”

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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.

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