Today’s Positive Tape Trends are No Surprise to Spectra Logic

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I recently read Henry Newman's blog announcing his top 10 storage predictions on Enterprise Storage Forum. He summarized 2010 in two words: stagnation and consolidation. While this may have been true for some companies, Spectra Logic experienced quite the opposite. We invested in innovation and accelerated deployment of the TFinity tape library. We significantly grew our customer base, unit sales and revenues. We remained self-funded, debt-free and privately-held. Based on the tape innovations and technology advancements that we have brought to market, we knew that tape was poised to reign supreme.

Newman predicted that in 2011, "… declines in tape unit sales will significantly slow. The decline in the tape market is well known, but I believe the decline has stopped. The number of PB of tape shipped will actually increase in 2011 and tape unit sales could exceed 2010 levels."

We completely agree and there are a number of key trends that support this. Chris Preimesberger talked about data growth in his recent article "eWeek Identifies Key Storage Trends of 2010."  He noted, "The universe of data continues to grow at an estimated 40 to 60 percent clip per year, and it is not slowing down or even leveling off." Industries such as media and entertainment, Enterprise IT, high-performance computing and government, to name a few, are grappling with storing, managing and accessing massive amounts of data – as well as the growth of "big data" items like high definition video, computer rendering for films, video surveillance, geophysical exploration and gene sequencing.  As more data is generated and saved, organizations must expand their storage capacity, thus increasing their physical space requirements and consuming even more energy for power and cooling. And they must solve these challenges with often tight, highly scrutinized budgets. It is quickly becoming apparent to even the 'disk-only' die-hards that tape, an energy- and operationally-efficient and cost-effective storage solution, is a smart and essential part of today's optimized data center. Period. We refute recent claims made by EMC,in particular: "The system delivers new operational efficiencies while eliminating the costs and complexities associated with a tape-based data retention approach."

In his column titled "Storage 2010: What's Past is Prologue," Jon W. Toigo, chairman of The Data Management Institute remarked that "…it should be a no brainer that forthcoming improvements in tape capacity, combined with a more than 700 percent improvement in tape media and subsystem reliability over the past decade, will drive up the adoption of tape — for backup as well as for archive — in the coming year. Yet, these improvements are all meaningless if companies continue to abandon tape in favor of de-duplicating virtual tape (aka disk) subsystems with WAN-based replication: the offering du jour of most of the disk subsystem vendors in 2010."

Tape is superior to disk in large data environments in part because of its long-term reliability, energy efficiency and lower cost. This is backed up by a National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) paper in which Mark Peters stated, "NERSC has definite proof that its use of tape is viable not only in terms of economy and performance, but also in terms of reliability… At NERSC, there is over 13 PB of data on tape: 30-40% of its tape activity is read, it has a measured and proven reliability of 99.945%, and its $/GB cost is around 5% of that of its disk storage." Clearly, tape comes out ahead of disk with better reliability and lower cost.

We've always believed that the value and benefits of tape would lead to its re-emergence and renewed status within the storage market. It figures into the best archive solutions today – including online, active archives, for which demand is accelerating phenomenally.  Our customers manage huge amounts of data, from TV stations that store massive digital video and films, to highway toll booths that capture a dozen images of each of thousands of vehicles that pass through each day, to critical archived data such as historical weather statistics, nuclear collision information and our nation's national archives and documents. The Spectra TFinity can scale up to 91 PB and tape has a shelf life of 30+ years. In industries with huge data archives, it would take potentially thousands of disk drives to meet this kind of capacity.  Spectra tape libraries provide users the best density, reliability, energy efficiency and scalability for the money.

And happily, our customers agree.  We were recently presented the industry's top honor: theQuality Award in the midrange and enterprise tape library categories in the latest Storage magazine/ Quality Awards service and reliability survey. The results are derived from a survey of qualified readers who assess products in five key areas, and Spectra's tape libraries swept all five categories including: sales-force competence, initial product quality, product features, product reliability and technical support. According to Rich Castagna, editorial director for Storage magazine and, "Spectra Logic led a very strong group of product lines to some of the best scores yet in the product features category." And 95 percent of our customers report that they would buy Spectra products again.

Tape will continue to be a critical aspect of storage solutions, from active archiving to internal and external clouds, to high-performance computing environments. With more and more organizations recognizing and embracing the value and benefits of tape, we know that its growth across the industry will continue to flourish. And given tape is a more than $3 billion annual market today, we predict Spectra Logic's modern tape libraries will continue to achieve significant growth in 2011 and beyond.