50 TB per Tape –Imagine Disk in the Future

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Dear Ms. Meade:

Did you read about the recent breakthrough[1]in tape technology—up to 50 TB per LTO tape? I was also “excited about the recently announced 3TB Seagate hard[2] drive, but if tape devices can go to 50TB imagine what kind of hard drives we'll have in a few years time.”


Seeing Only Disk

Dear Seeing Only Disk,

You might want to have your eyes checked. The breakthrough is in TAPE, not DISK. I find it so interesting that readers see the word “tape” and say the word “disk.” My, but the big advertising bucks spent by the Three-Letter-Disk vendor continue to pay off. Disk vendors have managed to obscure advancements in tape and instead bring to mind advancements in disk. Your disk dollars are hard at work with conflation in mind.

It is true that the 50 TB tape uses a perpendicular magnetic recording technology as does disk. In fact, tape and its automation are a lot like disk in other ways. For example, did you know that with Spectra tape libraries, you can invest in a global spare, much like you can have a stand-by in case of a RAID disk failure? And just as disk does several levels of data verification, did you know that tape drives perform a read-after-write and that Spectra libraries verify that data on tape can be retrieved through its PostScan™ feature?

So perhaps disk and tape parallels do hold true to some extent—except for the facts that

  1. Tape doesn’t consume energy just to maintain data, as does disk
  2. Tape media has an archival life of 30 years at a minimum, assuming decent conditions and the availability of a drive to read the data (not that big of a deal, if you store a few components along with the off-site tapes), while disk is typically used for five years or fewer; and
  3. Tape costs less than disk, any way you look at it.

So aside from tape’s higher data density, longer shelf life, portability for disaster recovery, lower purchase price, ease-of-use through a file-system instead of data written in specific backup formats, and greater return on investment, disk and tape ARE a lot alike.

Or not.

Sincerely, and sincerely astounded at your reading of the letters T A P E as disk,

Ms. Meade E. Ahmogle

[1]“50 TB Per Tape Cartridge,” PhysOrg.com, May 19, 2010.

[2]Wilson, Dean. “Hitachi Maxell announce 50TB tape drive,” TechEye.net, 20 May 2010.http://www.techeye.net/hardware/hitachi-maxell-announce-50tb-tape-drive.