Despite some industry observers declaring tape to be a dying technology, it is alive and well through the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) format, experts at this week's Storage Expo have maintained.
The LTO Program is a consortium comprising HP, IBM and Quantum, which developed the open standard licensed by most tape backup vendors.
Since LTO's inception in September 2000 over 100 million cartridges have been shipped worldwide, equating to over 40 exabytes of compressed cartridge capacity.
The benefits of tape archiving - such as its write-once, read-many format, the fact that it is easy to transport and store off-site and electronically inaccessible during storage thereby enhancing security and preventing alterations, and the very low total cost of ownership - still make it a compelling proposition to the vast majority of businesses today.
Bruce Master, senior programme manager of tape storage at IBM, believes that using a combination of disk and tape in a well-managed tiered environment gives companies the best of both worlds.
This approach allows them to readily access the data they need from time to time, while lowering storage costs for data they need to keep for compliance and regulatory reasons but only rarely access.
"A hybrid approach, blending disk and tape, is necessary for effective backup and archiving, and users still turn to tape as the lowest cost and most reliable medium for long-term data storage," he said.
Highlighting its continued stability and growth, LTO is currently in its fourth generation, with LTO-5 on track for release next year and the roadmap for LTO-6 already laid out.
Furthermore, LTO-4 has helped address the problem of security by adding hardware-based encryption, which means data is secured as it written to the tape, with key management software now straightforward and simple to use.
LTO-5 promises to bring 1.7TB of native storage per cartridge, helping to make it even easier for users to back up large data sets without having constantly to change cartridges.
The LTO Program said that, because the format is an open standard, it ensures that all media is interoperable, giving peace of mind to customers, enhancing competition, improving reliability and preventing vendor lock-in.
Another part of the standard is that every new generation is read-compatible back two generations and write-compatible with the previous generation, allowing companies to rest assured that their long-term backups will be accessible should they need them down the line.
Developers are also creating ever more detailed and granular indexing and search tools, thereby speeding up the location and retrieval of specific pieces of information as required.
"Tape will be around for the foreseeable future," concluded Mark O'Malley, strategic marketing manager for storage devices at Quantum.
"There simply is no other technology around today, or even on the horizon, that can compete with the value of tape."
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