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High-performance tape

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Click here for a table (PDF) of various tape media.
Buffeted by the perception that it's an aging technology and challenged by the allure of cheap disks, tape's days in sophisticated storage environments may seem to be numbered. But tape vendors continue to improve their products, and tape technology steadily marches forward.

Tape is still the best fit for applications that have lengthy backup windows, long-term data archiving needs or for organizations that require off-site storage on a medium that can be recovered using a variety of vendors' devices. For medium-sized and large enterprises, that usually means high-performance tape.

The key to taking advantage of improved tape technology is determining the appropriate media for specific applications. There are five major high-performance tape media on the market today: 3592, 9940, LTO, SAIT and SDLT. Selecting the right one begins with understanding the advantages of each. (See "LTO tape put to the test")

Mainframe environments will want to continue to use either 3592 or 9940 to satisfy their needs for batch processing, frequent file recalls and data managed under hierarchical storage management (HSM).

LTO, SAIT and SDLT formats will continue to lead in midrange shops. With a wide variety of cartridge manufacturers supporting these formats, tape prices remain competitive. Understanding each tape's features, unique technologies, application fits and ultimately their price-to-gigabyte ratio will help lead to the right tape media selection.

The performance kingpins
Five tape families meet the criteria for high-performance tape: IBM Corp.'s 3592, Storage Technology Corp.'s (StorageTek) 9940, LTO, SAIT and SDLT. The latest versions of these tapes offer 100+GB storage capacities, transfer rates exceeding 10MB/s, mean time between failures (MTBF) exceeding 400 days assuming continuous use and tape life spans exceeding 15 years (see "Tape specifics").

Tape specifics

This was first published in March 2004

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