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In today’s world of unrelenting data growth, IT decision makers who have not considered tape to be a relevant format for data storage are being urged to revisit the technology for their enterprise storage needs.

The Tape Storage Council, of which Iron Mountain is a member, issued the memo to raise awareness of the great strides that have been made in tape-based storage technology in recent times, surpassing disk-based technology in terms of capacity, cost of ownership and reliability.

Today’s modern tape technology bears very little relation to the tape technology of the past, with enterprise tape now having reached an unprecedented 10 TB native capacity and data transfer rates hitting 360 MB/sec. The rapid increase in capacity and performance shows no sign of abating either, with tape storage vendors such as IBM and StorageTek having already committed to producing tape cartridges with capacities far in excess of 10 Terabytes in the near future.

To put the current capacity capabilities into practical terms, a single 2.5TB LTO-6cartridge already has the capacity to store data equivalent to 300 Blu-ray movies while the future LTO-10 cartridge will store more than 14,400 Blu-Ray movies.

This positions tape to easily meet the unrelenting demand for increased storage capacity as the explosive year-on-year growth in data being produced globally continues to escalate.

But capacity is only one of a number of areas where tape has now usurped disk storage.

Tape drives have now surpassed disk drives in terms of reliability, with tape exceeding the most reliable disk drives by one to three orders of magnitude. The BER (Bit Error Rate – bits read per hard error) for enterprise tape has been rated at 1×1019 whereas for the most reliable enterprise Fibre Channel disk drive, the figure is 1×1016.

Tape-based storage systems also have a much lower TCO (total cost of ownership) than disk and the gap is widening. Low energy consumption reduced raised floor and massive scalability makes tape the most cost-effective technology for long-term data retention – a critical component of meeting regulatory compliance requirements.

A recent study by the Brad Johns Consulting Group, which examined the TCO for an LTFS (Linear Tape File System)-based ‘Tape as NAS’ solution, found that the cost totalled $1.1 million compared to $7 million for a disk-based unified storage solution, equating to a saving of $5.9 million over a 10-year period, or $2900 per TB of data stored.

Energy efficiency is now a primary concern for enterprises and is another area where tape comes into its own, as tape-based storage requires significantly less energy consumption than any other digital storage technology.

The proprietary nature of tape-based storage infrastructures was also somewhat restrictive in the past, with enterprises locked in to a single vendor, but that is no longer the case, as LTFS is an open tape format that allows content to be moved around multiple platforms and workflows.

With such significant innovations in efficiency, capacity, reliability and ease of use, coupled with the most competitive TCO, if you haven’t considered tape storage recently, you may want to do so now.