How will tape's role change?

The reports of tape's demise have always been greatly exaggerated. This is not a market that we see going away. We expect that the market will continue to shrink in size, and there will be fewer tape products bought.

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But there's a lot of it out there in the legacy infrastructure and one way vendors will be able to sell products going forward, especially disk-based backup products, will be by showing customers how they can blend those products with their existing tape infrastructure to achieve an optimum data protection strategy. It's ironic -- if you deploy disk-based technology judiciously, you can actually improve the performance and reliability of existing tape-based products.

There are certain things that disk is very good at: fast restores, getting initial backups onto disk very rapidly and reliability. Those are all advantages in the disk space.

Tape tends to excel in two areas: low-cost storage and performance. What we're recommending to our customers is to front-end the backup infrastructure with disk. That's where they would handle most of the restore requests for files or messages -- object-level restores like that.

Eventually they'll be migrating that data after it ages back to a less costly tier, which would be tape. If they're going to be running most of their server-level restores from that level, they can actually get better performance out of tape than disk. The fact that you can keep those tape drives streaming for that kind of activity means that the tapes will perform that much more reliably.

This was first published in July 2008

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