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Economy and capacity at odds

Ezine

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Downsizing tape libraries
Last spring we finally saw a significant downturn in planned spending for tape backup systems--one that we had anticipated for quite some time given disk's emergence as the backup target of choice.

By doing our surveys twice a year, we can often detect budgetary "corrections" that occur during the year; that is, adjustments from what managers hoped to accomplish in the spring to what they can realistically get done in the fall. For planned tape system spending, we often see that kind of mid-year adjustment.

In the current survey, 25% of respondents say they'll decrease tape spending this year (a few points off last spring's numbers), while 32% will increase spending in this area vs. 29% in the spring. It's a small shift to be sure, but it suggests that storage managers might have been more optimistic last spring about the degree they could reduce tape reliance.

But even if they couldn't achieve planned reductions in tape system purchases, storage managers appear to be successful at downsizing the tape libraries they do buy. The average number of slots in planned library purchases dropped by approximately 40% to 78--the lowest level we've seen to date. While we've seen similar drops in slot numbers comparing spring to fall surveys, 40% is the largest margin yet. And these reductions go across the board, regardless of company size. Last

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spring the average number of slots in new libraries for smaller firms was 71; this fall, it's 35.

"Tapes are just a pain," says ProAssurance's Clemons. "Our plan is that before the end of the fourth quarter that we will be off tape completely."

Still, for those who predict tape's demise, it's not likely to happen soon, as 84% of disk-based backup users say they spin some or all of their backup data off to tape. So tape isn't gone, it's just getting smaller.

"Most of the stuff goes directly to tape," says Temple University's Horwitz, but his shop is looking to reduce its use of tape. "We have an RFI out now for some sort of intelligent disk target for backups, and more than likely it'll be some VTL [virtual tape library]."

For tape systems, LTO is by far the format of choice, accounting for 70% of planned purchases, with about 32% of respondents opting for LTO-2/3 drives in their libraries. LTO-4 adoption, which appeared sluggish at first, seems to be picking up some serious steam; 26% say LTO-4 is their primary format for 2008 drive purchases, more than double the number from just a year ago (see "Adoption of LTO-4 tape format," below).


This was first published in October 2008

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