New role for tape libraries


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While most tape library vendors agree that tape drives should manage the encryption, they have no solid answer for the larger question as to what application should manage the encryption keys. Whether this ends up being the responsibility of the backup software, some software provided by the tape library vendor or even a third-party application from a vendor like VeriSign Inc. remains to be seen.

Fading features
As features like encryption take center stage, other features, like multiple tape media support, high availability and large numbers of tape drives, are taking a back seat. A single library supporting multiple types of tape media/drives isn't as appealing to users as first thought. According to Gartner Inc., LTO tape drives captured as much as 77% of the market in 2004, effectively establishing LTO as the default standard for tape.

ADIC's (now owned by Quantum) and Overland Storage's sales numbers back Gartner's statistics, as each reports that more than 75% of its new tape library sales contain only LTO tape drives. Tape libraries that support mixed media remain relevant for those users who need to manage or consolidate old tapes, such as SAIT or SDLT tapes.

High availability and high tape-drive counts also lack some of the luster they used to have. With disk becoming the primary target for backups and restores, users are more tolerant of tape library downtime for repairs and upgrades. Similarly, the ability to support a large number

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of tape drives is less important because the latest LTO-4 drives support higher throughput (120MB/sec uncompressed) on higher capacity tape cartridges (800GB of uncompressed data). Again, with disk becoming the initial target, data can be streamed faster to a fewer number of tape drives and cartridges over longer periods of time.

Tape libraries are finally assuming the role they were originally designed for: the long-term protection and preservation of data. With varying degrees of flexibility in configuring partitions and the new de facto standard of LTO, tape libraries are well positioned to fill this role. But as disk assumes its new role as the initial target for backups and source for restores, tape library vendors need to shore up their abilities to interact with disk libraries and provide users with some definitive answers on encryption.

This was first published in September 2007

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