IBM: Tape Backup is Here to Stay

Big Blue bets on its Tape Virtualization Engine technology, encryption and unexpected green twist to ensure that tape stays the archival technology of choice.
Posted January 3, 2008

Drew Robb

Drew Robb

The naysayers have been predicting the death of tape for a long time now. And with so many startups embracing disk, it seemed for a while that tape really was on the way out. Not so, says IBM Corp. of Armonk, NY.

“In order to maintain continuous business operations, address regulatory requirements and archive business records, users need an infrastructure that allows them to manage their data from online application storage to offline, permanent archive media,” says IBM’s Bruce Master, senior program manager, Worldwide Tape Storage Systems Marketing. “Tape backup is a key part of this life cycle, allowing users to safely store long term archives for record keeping and disaster recovery while managing total costs of ownership (TCO).”

When it comes to cost, says Master, tape storage TCO is as much as an order of magnitude less expensive than disk storage. Further, tape storage consumption of energy for power and cooling is anywhere from 20 to 100 times less expensive than disk storage. But that doesn’t mean Master is against disk either.

“Users have found that tape and disk are complementary and a blend of both is needed to address performance, compliance, security, data retention, energy and TCO objectives,” he says.

IBM Tape Technology

Far from languishing in the shadow of disk innovation, IBM continues to develop new technology for tape. The TS7700 Tape Virtualization Engine for mainframe systems, for example, can now be configured to participate in a grid environment i.e. two or three TS7700s communicating and replicating with each other over an IP network. This arrangement helps reduce or eliminate bottlenecks in the tape environment, supports the re-reference of volumes without the physical delays typical to tape I/O, helps increase performance of tape processes and helps to protect data and address business continuity objectives.

Tape security is another area of significant development.

“A security data breach could be quite costly to an organization in recovery costs, loss of customer trust and loss of business,” says Master. “IBM tape drive encryption solutions can help protect against data breaches and the subsequent costs.”

IBM Encryption Key Manager for Java platform (EKM), for instance, works with encryption-enabled tape drives in generating, protecting, storing and maintaining encryption keys that are used to encrypt information being written to and decrypt information being read from tape media.

According to International Data Corp. (IDC) of Framingham, MA, IBM is the #1 tape revenue share vendor in the world. The IBM TS1120 is leading enterprise tape drive based on branded revenue and ship share.

“IBM TS1120 tape drive and EKM technology is used in high-end enterprise accounts by Fortune 100 companies in a variety of industries including banking, finance and securities,” says Master. “IBM’s LTO tape offerings have achieved nearly 900,000 drive shipments and over 10 million cartridge shipments.”

IBM tape libraries include:

  • TS3100 – 24 slots and 1-2 LTO drives
  • TS3200 – 48 slots and 1-4 LTO drives for the small to medium user
  • TS3310 - Scalable up to 398 slots and up to 18 LTO drives for midsized users
  • TS3400 – 18 slots and 1-2 TS120 drives for the small or remote branch enterprise office
  • TS3500 - Scalable up to 6,800 slots and up to 192 LTO or TS1120 tape drives for midsized and enterprise open or mainframe systems

In addition, IBM offers tape virtualization products such as the TS7520 and TS7700

Green Means Tape

Master believes tape will play an important role in the greening of the data center. With power and cooling demands becoming ever more important as energy prices rise, utilities in some areas are even restricting the amount of power some businesses can use.

“IBM System Storage offers a complete storage portfolio that addresses power and cooling issues,” says Master. “The IBM Energy Efficiency Initiative provides services and solutions that lower complexity and deliver pinpoint control through: data reduction, data replication and migration, efficient power and cooling storage hardware, information lifecycle management, storage management, virtualization.”

At the head of the list when it comes to energy efficiency, says Master, is tape storage. While disk may have taken over certain functions, tape continues to thrive. And as users become more energy conscious, they will find a place for tape in their operations.

“Tape storage is a top of mind energy saver for customers,” says Master. “Tape systems use far less energy for power and cooling than disk systems and for long term data retention, a cartridge in a slot or on a shelf doesn’t draw any power.”

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