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The year when Google made TAPE cool again...

Hey, back up a minute (geddit?)... it's actually cost-effective

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Year in Review Tape has pretty much been rescued over the past year by revelations that both Google and Amazon were using tape libraries for data archiving purposes.If these glamorous, bleeding edge online cloud service provider firms used boring old legacy tape then, hey, the stuff must still really be useful.

It was a mixed picture though. Tape for archive use strengthened while tape use for backup declined some more.

Later in the year, the Santa Clara Consulting Group revealed that the decline in tape media sales had slowed significantly. SpectraLogic announced its Black Pearl technology to have object data stored on tape, the first major access protocol advance for tape in years. Up until this point, object storage, with its disk media bias, had been seen as another attack on tape.

Storage companies continued introducing disk-based products for backup, attacking the remnants of the small business tape backup market. Struggling tape system vendors like Quantum and Overland Storage carried on struggling as their tape-based revenues carried on shrinking.

Here’s a list of the tape news we had in the past 12 months:-

  • Christmas Eve 2012 - Struggling Imation bulks up tape media biz by buying disk array startup Nexsan.
  • January 2013 - Google revealed Oracle 8500 StreamLine tape libraries in its Lenoir data centre.
  • Google Lenoir datacentre with Oracle tape libraries

    Click the pic to play the video

  • February 2013 - HP launches LTO-6 tape drive products and intros StoreEver tape product brand name.
  • February 2013 - Quantum refreshed its high-end Scalar i6000 tape library.
  • March 2013 - SpectraLogic installed 550PB of tape in six months.
  • May 2013 - Quantum revenues down for sixth year running die to unreeling tape product revenues.
  • June 2013 - HP introduced its StoreEver MSL6480 tape library and upgraded the larger ESL G3 library.
  • July 2013 - WD’s Arkeia backup business intro’s deduping backup appliance to attack small biz tape backup.
  • July 2013 - Quantum outsources its tape library manufacturing.
  • September 2013 - The legendary TDK quits tape media manufacturing.
  • September 2013 - Oracle introduces world’s highest-capacity tape drive and format, StorageTek T10000D, 8.5 raw terabytes.
  • September 2013 - SpectraLogic adds nTier Verde disk array alongside its tape products.
  • October 2013 - Tape product vendor SpectraLogic posts 16 per cent quarterly revenue rise and its Black Pearl technology for storing object data on tape.
  • November 2013 - Cray offers a tape archive data storage tier.
  • December 2013 - Santa Clara Consulting Group quarterly tape media sales numbers show tape decline significantly slowing.
  • Backup tape media sales to Q3 2013

Overall the tape backup market is still in decline, with active vendors pursuing defensive strategies. Struggling tape system vendors Overland Storage and Tandberg Data, both pushing forwards in disk-based product sales, are merging in an attempt to gain critical and stable business mass for profitable revenues.

Quantum still has a large tape business and is managing its decline and hoping a profitable business will eventually emerge. SpectraLogic has emerged as an archive tape champion and one of the tape technology area’s leaders, certainly the most visionary with the Black Pearl technology.

Oracle launched its higher-capacity T10000D format and IBM is pushing tape drive and media capacity forwards, heading past a 100TB capacity tape.

Archive-wise, tape appears to have substantial and enduring cost/TB and endurance ratings far beyond disk. However, we’ll have to see how 4-6TB capacity spun-down disk-based archive services, as EVault’s LTS2, perform. They may cause a split in the archive market between what we might call disk-based nearline archiving and tape-based longer-term offline archives.

We can’t yet say tape is in rude health, but there is no tape corpse and the archive tape business is certainly not in the intensive care ward. But, if we peer into the hospital's long-term patient care ward, there we can see the the backup tape patient. It might never fully emerge. ®

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