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Tape is dead, long live tape

Ever since I started covering storage, I’ve been hearing the disk vs. tape debate, usually including proclamations that tape is dead or dying.

There are good reasons to make that assertion. Disk-based backup is catching on, particularly among SMBs, and data deduplication is evening out the cost-per-GB numbers between disk and tape for many midrange applications. Disk is preferable to tape in many ways, especially because it allows faster restore times for backup and archival data. Once again, people are starting to ask, what’s the point of using tape? Dell/EqualLogic’s Marc Farley posted a funny video on his blog to illustrate the question on Friday.

I’m not so sure we’ll ever really see the end of tape. When it comes to the high end, there’s simply too much data to keep on spinning disk. The cost of disk is often still higher per GB, depending on the type of disk and the type of application accessing it. And that doesn’t include power and cooling costs.

I’ve also heard lots of good reasons to give up tape. And maybe in certain markets, like SMBs, tape will die — if it hasn’t already. But whenever tape is on the ropes, another trend comes along to boost it back into relevance.  When disk took over backup, the data archiving trend kicked in, and tape’s savings in power and cooling and its shelf life for long-term data preservation came to the fore. Now, as data dedupe has disk systems vendors pitching their products for archive, too, along comes “green IT” to buoy tape.

Now, I’d like to ask the same questions Farley did, because I’m just as curious to know, and because he and I may have different audiences with different opinions. Do you think tape is dead? If not, what do you use it for? Let us know the amount of data you’re managing in your shop as well.

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