Rich Gadomski is VP of Marketing, Fujifilm Recording Media USA, Inc. and member of the Tape Storage Council.
In today’s business climate, achieving results while maximizing resources has become more important than ever. IT leaders are focusing intently on every possible way to drive performance and extract as much value as possible from their systems and technologies while striving to conserve energy and reduce waste.
One critical area that IT leaders are looking at continues to be data storage. In today’s era of big data and the Internet of Things (IoT), data storage and the need for long term data retention are at the forefront of delivering value to governments, businesses and organizations of all sizes. The challenge is how to store more and more data cost effectively considering the limited resources available.
One of those limited resources is certainly energy. The world’s data centers now consume almost as much energy as the country of Spain and consume just over 2 percent of the total U.S. electrical output. Two of the highest areas of energy consumption are related to servers and disk storage. While cutting edge data centers rightly focus on including renewable sources of energy to help power their data centers and reduce their impact on the environment, best practices also dictate moving less frequently accessed data from expensive flash and higher energy consuming disks to more energy efficient tape systems.
According to the Tape Storage Council’s 2017 State of Tape Industry report, energy costs for tape capacity are typically less than 5 percent of the equivalent amount of disk capacity. Since tape cartridges spend most of their life in a library slot or on a shelf, they consume no energy when not mounted in a tape drive. As capacity demands increase, tape capacity can be added without adding more drives.
Improving data center energy consumption requires long term planning and must include an effective storage strategy. The tape industry has been fueled by a decade of strong technological development and continues to play a major role in traditional backup, active archive and disaster recovery applications, in addition to effectively addressing many new large-scale storage requirements for the unknown appetite of the IoT. As a result, the role tape serves in today’s modern data centers is steadily expanding. IT leaders and cloud service providers are leveraging tape for its significant reliability, security, operational and economic advantages.
In addition to energy savings, users can also benefit from reliability levels for tape that are quickly improving as the Bit Error Rate (BER) for enterprise tape formats and LTO-7 tape is rated at one bit in error per 1x1019 bits read. This makes the top-rated tape drives 1,000 times more reliable than the top-rated HDDs at 1x1016. The tape BER is most impressive leading the entire storage industry and going forward, significantly higher levels of tape reliability can be expected.
Manufacturer’s specifications indicate that today’s enterprise tape formats and LTO tape media have a life span of 30 years or more while a tape drive is typically deployed 7 to 10 years before replacement. By comparison, a standard disk drive is typically operational from 3 to 5 years before replacement.
Tape cartridge capacities and data transfer speeds are also expected to grow rapidly for the foreseeable future with no fundamental technology limitations in sight. In fact, Fujifilm in conjunction with IBM announced in April of 2015, the achievement of a new record in areal data density of 123 billion bits per square inch on data tape utilizing Fujifilm’s Barium Ferrite magnetic particle technology. This density breakthrough equates to a standard LTO cartridge capable of storing up to 220 TB of uncompressed data, more than 36 times the storage capacity of the current LTO-7 tape. Thanks to this technology breakthrough, the long term ability to achieve future capacity requirements of tape technology roadmaps is ensured.
In terms of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) advantage compared with other storage mediums, tape is the most cost-effective technology for long-term data retention. Once again, tape capacity can scale without adding more drives while this is not the case with HDDs where each capacity increase requires another drive and quickly becomes more costly than tape as capacity demand increases. Well known TCO studies are publicly available and reveal that the TCO for HDDs is approximately six times higher than the equivalent capacity tape systems thanks in part to tape’s low energy consumption.
Finally, in terms of security, tape has always been the only truly removable storage medium. This provides what is commonly being referred to today as an “air gap” advantage where, by virtue of its ability to be disconnected from the network, data contained on tape can be impervious to virus or ransomware type attacks.
Clearly, tape technology offers the most cost-effective, reliable, safe and energy efficient solutions available to the storage industry. The continuing innovative technology advancements and compelling value proposition demonstrate that tape technology is not sitting still. Expect this promising trend to continue throughout 2017 and beyond as the march to Exascale storage solutions draws near.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Penton.