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Oracle bod: Tape not just for Xmas, it's for Hollywood and unis too

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'No one would ever call a mirror a data protection strategy'

El Reg: Is the role of tape now archive and not backup? Does tape's role differ according to whether the format is LTO or T10000, and, if so, please describe the differing roles.

Tom Wultich: I discuss this with customers and analysts a lot. We see a strong role for tape in mainframe, where it is used behind virtualisation for a variety of archive, data protection, and disaster recovery roles, open systems archive, and also open system backup. The reason for backup is two-fold. First, tape provides a safety-net role in backup. Things can and do go wrong with backup to disk. No one would ever call a mirror a data protection strategy.

Likewise, backing up to disk with de-dupe isn't good enough. Most enterprise customers also keep at least one copy on tape and there have been some reported incidents where the customer was very glad that they had their tape copies. Secondly, the distinction between archive and backup can be fuzzy. While it is nice to think about a separate archive system for all data that is to be kept more than 30 days, many customers use their backup application to provide what many of us would call archiving. They keep their old backups for years.

We all know the downside to that - it is convenient with respect to the writing of the data, but it is very difficult to find the files you want to read back later. However, in the absence of an effective archive strategy and solution, this is what many customers do. Is the data after 30 days an archive or is it a backup? Either way, tape is there, working with the application to store the data.

El Reg: Will tape move into the cloud? Please explain why or why not?

Tom Wultich: It’s already there. We have cloud customers and are seeing this as part of the growth engine for the tape market. Prior to the cloud, we saw a growing segment for tape in customers who are outsourcers. Providing a consolidated storage solution for use by multiple customers, they preceded the cloud. Media and entertainment, cloud, scientific archives, national and education archives, and others are experiencing huge data growth rates and the largest customers in these segments use tape in a big way.

Our largest customer list used to be dominated by mainframe customers and open systems backup customers. Now we see all of those I listed above, including cloud. And of course, Oracle's cloud also uses our tape. One interesting case study is T3Media*.

Where does this leave us?

It's interesting that Oracle recommends the use of tape as a safety net, a backstop, for backup, as well as for archiving.This was unexpected. Its enthusiasm for LTFS is stronger than we thought, while its position on tape and the cloud is as we thought.

We regret Wultich's inability to answer the T10000 roadmap questions but we are quietly confident that Oracle has its own T10000 storage density developments under way, along the lines of IBM's 125TB tape research. Oracle will have to keep pace with IBM in mainframe tape in order to stay in that market - if it wants to stay in that market. IBM may even want it to stay in so as to prevent it having a mainframe tape monopoly with all the downside of high prices and stalled technology development that that would imply.

It would be good if Oracle were to join the LTO organisation; it has more of a tape presence than Quantum, the third member with HP and IBM, and that would help avoid LTO being a cosy duopoly. ®

* T3Media (formerly Thought Equity Motion) offers cloud-based storage, access and licensing for enterprise-scale video libraries. The company licenses sports, news, and creative footage to producers in advertising, entertainment, publishing, and emerging media. It works with the world’s leading video libraries, including BBC Motion Gallery, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, National Geographic, The New York Times, and the NCAA.

T3Media uses Oracle’s StorageTek SL8500 modular library systems with T10000C tape drives managed by Storage Archive Manager software to manage data across two facilities.

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