There's Still A Place For Tape Backup, VARs Say

Solution providers, on the other hand, called the tape and its contemporary counterpart, disk-based backup, complementary technologies, and are glad they can offer both to their customers.

"Tape has been dead for 20 years, some say," said Michael Fanelli, western regional manager at SSI hubcity, a Metuchen, N.J.-based solution provider. "But it's still alive and doing well."

Fanelli said disk-based backup solutions can replace tape as long as the data archived to the disk is itself backed up, preferably to tape. But the actual mix of disk and tape backup storage depends on customers' needs and their storage patterns, he said.

For Dan Carson, vice president of marketing and business development at Open Systems Solutions, Yardley, Pa., disk-based backup solutions work well when backing up critical files that have service-level agreements based on retrieval time. "But where retrieval time is not as critical, tape is the choice," he said.

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But that isn't stopping vendors from trying to keep tape out of the data center.

This month, for instance, San Jose, Calif.-based Yosemite Technologies introduced new storage backup software that allows data to be backed up to a three-tier architecture—from expensive primary disk to lower-cost secondary disk to either physical or virtual tape, said John Maxwell, senior vice president of product management and marketing.

The software, called Yosemite Backup Advanced, is aimed at solution providers working with midsize businesses. It sits on one server in a network and handles the backup and recovery operations on all the other servers, regardless of server or storage vendor, Maxwell said.

The software includes self-tuning logic to automatically tune backups and restores data by looking at all the physical resources in the network to determine the appropriate mix of bandwidth and the setup of multiple data streams to optimize the operations.

This month also saw Lasso Logic, a San Francisco- based startup, introduce the LassoCDP, an integrated continuous data-protection appliance, said Lasso CEO Steve Goodman.

The LassoCDP is a PC-based appliance with a single Western Digital hard drive. It sits on a storage network looking for new files or for changes to existing files. Such changes are automatically replicated locally and to an off-site location without user intervention, Goodman said.

Lasso is targeting small businesses because their data-storage requirements are growing, but they require a simple way to make sure the data is continually backed up and protected, he said.

"I don't believe tape is going away," he said. "But it's changing. You can back up to disk and then to an online service, or you can archive to tape, but then you have to take the tape off-site."

While some vendors look to pull data off tapes, the tape automation vendors keep pushing back with new products.

Boulder, Colo.-based Spectra Logic this month introduced the Spectra T50 LTO tape library, which uses the same code base as the company's enterprise-class libraries, said Molly Rector, director of technical marketing for the vendor.

The T50 supports up to four half-height or two full-height LTO tape drives. The library has room for up to 50 LTO tape cartridges, which are loaded into the unit in groups of five through the company's TeraPack magazines. One or two of the magazines can be configured as separate virtual tape libraries for remote management, she said.

Meanwhile, Oslo, Norway-based Tandberg Data this month became the fourth vendor to manufacture tape drives using LTO technology, and introduced what it calls the smallest LTO-2 drive in the world.

Tandberg, which previously owned about 50 percent of its U.S.-based partner, InoStor, Poway, Calif., recently acquired the remaining 50 percent of the company, said InoStor CEO Ken Cruden.

Tandberg's first LTO tape drive is based on LTO-2 technology, but it is a half-height unit that takes up about the same space as a DVD-ROM drive.

While its performance is only about two-thirds that of full-height drives, its small size, combined with a list price starting at $2,450, makes it ideal for building into servers, Cruden said.