Q

Will nearline disk systems make tape obsolete?

Backup expert Pierre Dorion offers advice on remote data replication and network bandwith limitation.

Will "cheap" nearline disk systems obviate the need for most high-duty cycle tape drives (359X, 9X40), relegating most tape to just long term/low access archival? Or do the economics of high end libraries actually make better sense than nearline disk for a significant number of uses?
The dropping cost of disk storage has definitely put that technology in the foreground when in comes to backup media. It offers fast read/write performance, fast data access since it is a random access device. It is also capable of offering multiple simultaneous mount points. In some case, it is also cheaper than high-end tape technology. However, in terms of data availability, disk still presents some limitations when it comes to offsite storage. While tape volumes can easily be sent offsite, the same cannot be said about disk.

There are many remote data replication solutions available to address this limitation but network bandwidth becomes the next hurdle. If large volumes of data must be replicated off site, the cost for network bandwidth that can keep up with high volumes of data can quickly nullify any storage infrastructure savings.

Some high-end tape technologies also offer features such as WORM emulation (write once read many), which is required by some customers to satisfy certain legal requirements. Other customers will also want to leverage the investment in their existing high-end tape storage infrastructure and might not be willing to switch technology just yet.

The dropping cost of disk will certainly impact the acquisition of new high-end tape solutions in favor of a combination of both disk and cheaper tape technology. However, I do believe that high-end tape technology will be with us for a while still.

This was first published in August 2004

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