Tape Archive Solutions Stand the Test of Time for Long Term Data Retention

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There's been an interesting debate in the industry the past few weeks on the merits of Blu-ray discs versus tape-based storage solutions for long term data retention and archiving. This debate stemmed from Facebook's prototype display of a Blu-ray optical disc library at its recent Open Compute Project Summit. Facebook's Blu-ray prototype is designed to store "cold storage" data, such as duplicates of its users' photos and videos that Facebook keeps for backup purposes, and which it assumes will rarely if ever be accessed.

With the inherent advantages of tape media, Facebook's deployment of Blu-ray discs for commercial grade archiving is an interesting choice and sparked some notable industry commentary—as highlighted in a number of articles, including Forbes and SearchStorage.com as well as a couple of blogs by our interim CMO, Bruce Kornfeld, Can Consumer Technologies Meet the Demands of Commercial Data Storage Applications and The Facebook Prototype: Economics of Blu-ray Disc versus Tape Storage.
The SearchStorage.com article cites a good number of industry analysts who overwhelmingly view tape storage as superior to Blu-ray for long term storage.

Given this, I wanted to touch on why this is the case and what today's tape solutions deliver in terms of data security, integrity, media health monitoring, as well as economic advantages that give tape storage the edge over Blu-ray, hard disk drives and other media when it comes to long term data retention.

Tape storage technologies have evolved substantially the past five to ten years. At Spectra, we've worked tirelessly to lead innovation and challenge expectations of the data protection market with intelligent, integrated, and simple to use backup and archive technologies. Our suite of TSeries tape libraries range from high capacity Enterprise class libraries, such as the TFinity and T950, to smaller SME-focused libraries, such as the T380 and the T50e. We offer high capacity TS1140 and open standard LTO media options, have the capability to offer block, file and object storage on our tape systems; and can sell long term storage for under $0.10/GB LIST pricing.

Spectra's archive and backup data storage tape products support all aspects of secondary storage, are compatible with every major tape and disk format, and provide a plethora of advanced features that ensure the data is protected, its integrity is maintained and that it will be available virtually forever. Some of these features include:

  • Integrated Data Encryption – provides the security of AES-256 bit encryption to secure data against accidental or malicious breaches without added cost or complexity of an external key manager.
  • Data Integrity Verification (DIV) – ensures the integrity of data as it's written as well as at any time in the future by verifying the data has not suffered silent cor ruption while inactive.  For archive purposes, periodically checking data integrity provides users the ability to mitigate potential data error issues before they become significant read problems or result in data loss.
  • Media Lifecycle Management (MLM) – constant health status checks and reports on the media inventory which is often the largest cost component of a solution. Combined with drive lifecycle management (DLM) that provides similar health status checks and reports on drives, MLM allows users to mitigate both media and drive issues before they become job stopping read / write problems or result in data loss.
  • Investment Protection inherent in the LTO Roadmap – lengthy history and future public roadmap gives users the ability to reliably plan technology refreshes and to depend upon long-term support and availability of drive and media technology deployed in their environments.

In addition, tape drive technologies have advanced greatly in the past few years as well. When it comes to data retrieval times, I think most people would be pleasantly surprised to know that a tape drive can access cold storage/archived data in about a minute on average.

At Spectra, we're building archiving solutions that will stand the test of time and allow companies to store their data virtually forever. Not only does tape storage have a proven track record of going the distance in serving commercial data storage environments, its long term viability and roadmap are strong and well defined. In the vast majority of use cases, for successful long term archiving, we'd certainly put our money on tape!