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Tape library trends for disaster recovery

When it comes to disaster recovery, no well-managed data center should be without a tape library system to protect critical as well as archived data. With continued demand for cost-effective

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data storage, especially for large amounts of archival data and rapid recovery following a disaster, the demand for tape libraries is expected to continue at a steady pace.

Typical entry-level solutions cost around $10,000, while high-end solutions can cost in excess of $100,000. For large-capacity data storage requirements, the cost per gigabyte can be as low as 10 cents, or at least 60% less than most hard drives. The tradeoff for their larger capacity is their slower access time, which usually involves mechanical manipulation of tapes. Access to data in a library, even with advances in robotic technology, can take from several seconds to several minutes.

Trends in tape libraries

Key trends for tape libraries include the following:

Scalable data storage performance: Newer, more modular tape libraries such as the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. MSL2024 Series, provide simple, modular data storage growth with advanced data retrieval technologies, can reduce data retrieval times and minimize service disruptions.

Affordable price and lower total cost of ownership (TCO): Competition among equipment and software vendors will ensure affordable solutions and low TCO; third-party resellers such as Sunstar Company Inc. will also provide cost-effective options.

Increased competition from virtual tape library (VTL) systems: Using arrays of hard disk drives with specialized access software provides faster data access than tape arrays; VTLs are growing in popularity for storage consolidation and fast data restoration. Tape libraries can support VTLs by providing longer-term backup capabilities.

Manufacturers will continue to expand their product lines: This will be true especially for lower-end systems that can be purchased by SMBs requiring expanded data storage facilities; leading manufacturers include IBM Corp., Quantum Corp. (acquired ADIC), Overland Storage, HP, Spectra Logic, Qualstar Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc. (acquired StorageTek) and Tandberg Data Inc. (acquired Exabtye).

Increased focus on environmental impact of systems: During the manufacturing process, there will be an increased focus on energy conservation and the use of recycled raw materials, such as metals, aluminum, plastics and lead.

Improvements in data compression algorithms: These will increase the amount of data stored per tape storage unit.

Improvements in robotic technology: Faster access to data cartridges through improvements in robotic technology will reduce the time needed for data retrieval.

Enhancements to data security: Encryption and other techniques will increasingly be used to protect data confidentiality, integrity and availability.

As storage virtualization grows, so will the need for tape libraries: Advances in storage virtualization while increase the speed of data access. The amount of available data storage will still need to be supplemented by tape libraries to ensure full data recovery and restoration following a disaster.

About this author: Paul F. Kirvan, FBCI, CBCP, CISSP, has more than 20 years experience in business continuity management as a consultant, author and educator. He is also secretary of the Business Continuity Institute USA Chapter.

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This was first published in April 2009

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