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Vendors are also seeing the move to larger tape libraries, although they indicate that autoloaders, which have a single tape drive and multiple slots, are making a minor comeback.
The low-end tape library business declined rapidly in 2008 and 2009, dragging down the entire business, said Matt Starr, CTO of Spectra Logic. However, with the focus on archiving, Spectra Logic is seeing growth once again, including in the autoloader market, Starr said.
Going forward, Starr said growth will continue thanks to the need to archive ever-growing amounts of data, especially fixed content such as videos and JPEG files, where deduplication technology has little impact on capacity.
Consolidation of tape libraries is causing a big uptick in the sales of large libraries, said Rob Clark, senior vice president of Quantum’s disk and tape business.
However, Clark said, Quantum recently has seen a surge in the midrange tape library market as well. “I’m not sure why,” he said. “Maybe people have been waiting to purchase them.”
Clark also said he sees a future for tape in cloud computing because of the expense of cloud-based storage.
“Cloud providers charge a premium,” he said. “But they need to add tape on the back end as another tier. For cloud service providers, power and cooling are very expensive.”
For affordability and data portability, there is no real alternative to tape for long-term archiving, said Peri Grover, director of product marketing at Overland Storage.
“Once data is stored, 90 percent is never accessed again,” Grover said. “That’s a big waste of disk.”
The only real objection to tape today is speed, especially since data is stored sequentially, Grover said. “But when it’s used for archiving, that’s not an issue,” she said. “You don’t need millisecond speed.”
Today’s tape market is almost exclusively centered the LTO format, with two enterprise-class formats from IBM and Oracle maintaining sales, albeit at very low levels.
LTO is by far the biggest-selling tape format in the market, having pushed its midrange competitors such as DDS/DAT, DLT, AIT, and others into near oblivion.
The LTO format, which originally was released in 2000, is now in its fifth generation. LTO-5 cartridges natively feature 1.5 TB of capacity and a throughput of up to 140 MBps, or 3.0 TB capacity and up to 280 MBps throughput at 2:1 compression. That is about double the capacity and throughput of LTO-4.
While further development of other midrange tape formats is not expected, the consortium of vendors that develop the LTO format have a road map which includes at least three more generations, giving the format a lifetime extending through at least 2018. The last currently planned generation, LTO-8, is slated to feature native capacity of 12.8 TB and throughput of up to 472 MBps, or 32 TB of capacity and up to 1,180 MBps, when compression is used.
Quantum’s Clark, who is a board member of the LTO Consortium, said the LTO road map is solid, and that there are even technologies that may help extend it. “The original LTO team did a really good job of laying out the road map,” Clark said.
In addition to capacity and throughput, LTO has seen continued development of other features. WORM (write once, read many) technology for configuring tapes to prevent overwriting or deleting of data was introduced with LTO-3, while LTO-4 introduced encryption technology to prevent unauthorized access of data from a tape.
The biggest technological advance introduced with LTO-5 was partitioning and the Linear Tape File System, or LTFS.
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