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SM2003: Quantum chief talks backup problems

Tape is the old wise man of the IT industry; it's served its role as the preferred medium for data backup operations for decades. But if it's been around so long, why do people still rate backup as a constant pain point in their daily routines? At the Storage Management 2003 Conference this week, Storage magazine's editor in chief Mark Schlack put Quantum Corp.'s recently coronated CEO Rick Belluzzo on the hot seat to find out what Quantum is doing to address the future of tape technology, its shortcomings and how disk-based backup systems could pick up the slack.

People imply that tape is the problem.
It has honestly been a challenged [technology]. It also has fundamental advantages for things like archiving. Today, to solve these issues you have to take a step back and solve a bunch of problems at the systems management level. In five years, what will disk backup be used for and what will tape be used for?
Customers are building architectures that will include both disk and tape. It's hard to answer that because it depends upon the customer. We're trying to provide the ingredients to help customers make that type of decision. Will tape be a purely archival medium in 10 years?
When it comes to archiving your think tape. Also, in the backup space disk will make gains. Tape will still be there for quite some time. There are always going to be customers who are happy with tape and will use it for five-to-10 years. With SANs becoming the solution of choice, do you foresee the standalone tape drive market shrinking in relation to the tape library market?
We definitely see a shift toward libraries as well as all kinds of automation as customers of all sizes come to grips with backup issues. We've become exclusively focused on data protection in three businesses. We're making our tape drives more scalable, reliable and improving capacity and performance, we're [enabling] less human intervention through management tools and we have a whole new class of products in disk-to-disk backup. There's no older technology than tape yet everyone I talk to has backup problems. What's the problem?
The backup problems of today reflect all of the changes in the systems environment. In some way we're the victims of our own success as an industry. All of the costs associated with data are reflected in protecting that data. There are new demands on the systems environment. Do you foresee smarter tape libraries that have intelligence about what they're holding?
Yes. We're trying to do that today. The question is where should that intelligence reside. We're at the tip of the iceberg of how complex that issue could become. We don't have a solid solution yet. Now with all of these new regulations [around storing electronic documents,] the faster we understand what these issues are the quicker we can provide a solution.

Let us know what you think of this story. E-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer We found that when it comes to backup services there is surprisingly little interest in buying disk for backup. What's your take on that? Is there hesitancy among customers?
It varies [among] customers. We've tried to focus on complexity, proprietary systems and the lack of heterogeneity. All of those things can really slow down a sophisticated disk-to-disk backup solution. In these times people tend to stick with what's tried and true. We haven't announced a roadmap around our DX30. Adding depth to that product could include hierarchical storage management of data by using the appliance as an intermediary for daily backups and moving data to a library for archiving. Should the industry stop thinking about cartridge size and start thinking about libraries instead?
When it comes to the capacity and performance of tape drives, those still need to advance. The current rate [of technology advancement] is almost faster than customers can absorb. You will continue to see expansion upward in capacity and downward in cost. In libraries there is a lot of work to do. They are clearly growing in complexity and there will need to be more slots, but more sophisticated network management capabilities are all part of the systems management approach of solving backup problems.

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