February 2010

LTO Tape Storage

LTO Tape Storage: Lean, Mean, and Green

By: Lorrie Delk Walker

There are those who claim that tape storage is a dying enterprise, but numbers don’t lie.

According to a Storage Magazine/SearchStorage Purchasing Intentions survey conducted about a year ago, spending on LTO-4 tape storage adoption had increased by 33 percent over the previous year.

A fall 2008 survey reported a 26 percent increase. With the release of LTO-5, the next generation in tape storage, expected any time now, companies that recertify tape media anticipate that tape storage still has a place in the storage media market.

“A lot of people are going to disk and cloud computing and they always say that tape storage is dead,” says Brian Musil, founder of Recycle Your Media in Newport Beach, Calif. “Tape storage is not really going to be the big growth area of data storage, but it definitely has its purpose.”

LTO-5 will double the storage capacity of LTO-4 when it is released this year. Its storage capacity is 3.2 terabytes with a transfer rate of 360 megabytes per second, compared to LTO-4’s 1.6 terabytes and 240-megabyte transfer rate.

Musil predicts that storage media trends will include using a combination of storage, such as using disks for every day storage and tape storage for disaster recovery and archiving purposes.

“You can just save everything onto disk,” he says. “But tape storage has no mechanical moving parts to have issues with, so you can access it 30 years from now. It’s the most reliable kind of archiving method.”

Security is another feature keeping LTO popular among many organizations.

“When shipping tapes to an offsite storage facility or to be recycled, encryption helps meet certain security requirements,” Musil says. “The encryption feature of LTO-4 technology is appealing to the more security-minded companies.”

Archiving data on tape storage products is also popular for many businesses and organizations because of compliance requirements.

“As economies continue to change and government regulations force more compliance requirements, companies need to keep more data available long-term, because backup of data is continuing to grow out of control,” Musil says. “For many IT managers, the thought that data stored on disk may never be accessed again seems like a very wasteful and expensive practice.”

The Green Angle

The emergence of all things “green” has opened the door to more reuse and recycling opportunities in virtually every industry, and the tape storage media industry is no different.

Because legislation has made companies increasingly responsible for where electronics go when they reach the end of their life, the demand for finding ways to reuse and recycle them has increased.

Purchasing reconditioned tape storage media is green because it involves reusing something that another company has discarded, but it also is more energy efficient than using disks.

“Tape storage media consumes zero power and generates zero heat for them just to sit there,” Musil says, adding that while disks are faster than tape, they require more energy. “You can put the tape storage media in storage somewhere and access it as needed.”

Combine the drive to go green with a struggling economy, and recycling/reuse truly has become a money saver.

“Recycling through reuse is probably the best thing to do,” Musil says. “It keeps the old but still useful products out of the landfills.”

Businesses continue to look to companies such as Recycle Your Media to purchase used tape storage media that is certified and cheaper than purchasing it new. Storage costs have risen over the years, so purchasing like-new tape storage cartridges with plenty of use left is a money-saving option.

The cost per gigabyte is lower with tape storage than disk storage, and tape is a consumable product that has a life expectancy of one million passes, Musil says.

When companies seek to discard archived data and upgrade their storage systems, they often use a company such as Recycle Your Media to address all of their needs. Recycle Your Media eradicates data on cartridges and puts the cartridges through a 12-point test/inspect certification process to determine if they are in good condition for reuse.

“We often like to say that our certification process is a lot better than the manufacturer because we test every single tape, not just batch test,” he says. “If a tape is going to fail, it will fail when you load it, as opposed to in the middle of its usage. The failure rate on this type of media is very low because it’s manufactured well.”

Purchasing certified used tape storage media can save the buyer up to 50 percent, compared to purchasing the items new.

There also are plenty of opportunities for companies to upgrade their tape storage systems while still purchasing used. For example, let’s say a company has stored archived data for seven years using LTO-2. Once the data can be discarded, many companies may have already migrated from their LTO-2 to LTO-4 so they would not have a way to reuse the LTO-2 media, Musil says.

That’s where Recycle Your Media comes along.

“We will buy those LTO-2 cartridges, eradicate the data securely and put them through a 12-point test/inspect certification process,” he says.

There are many companies out there for which LTO-2 is still a viable data backup solution for them and certified media is a very cost effective, economical and environmentally-friendly option.

While experts agree that tape storage will never equal disk when it comes to ease of use or performance, Musil says LTO allows the technology to remain a viable option when it comes to archiving, data mirroring/duplication, disaster recovery, and non-critical or long-term backup storage media.