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Spectra Logic Outlines What It will Take to Transform Tape from Being an “Outie” to an “Innie”

Anyone involved with managing any serious amounts of data (and when I say “serious amounts of data,” I mean multiple PBs of data) knows that today’s disk-based storage solutions are, for the most part, not equipped to meet the diverse requirements of storing this amount of data. While still an extreme use case, a growing number of organizations have to manage PBs of data.

As such, they need a new type of storage solution – or an old storage solution with a new interface – that addresses this particular situation. While attending Spectra Logic’s analyst conference this week in Broomfield, CO, it presented what it considers the six attributes that tape must offer to transform itself from being on the “outs” with organizations to being viewed as the “in” technology again.

Driving the need for this new type of deep storage solution is an entirely new set of requirements being imposed on organizations. While most organizations still use – and will continue to use – storage systems intended for use by databases and file servers into the foreseeable future, the new world of mobile devices and multimedia have their own particular storage needs that these traditional disk-based storage systems are not so well positioned to meet. These require storage solutions that are:

  • Extremely low cost
  • Power efficient
  • Dense
  • Reasonably responsive

While these storage requirements of mobile devices and multimedia would seem to align perfectly with tape, tape has been on the “outs” with organizations for one major reason: it has an “old world” interface. Programmers no longer use block and file protocols when writing code – they use object-oriented code and manage data as objects. Currently tape systems have no such interface to meet these new demands.

This is not to imply tape storage vendors are ignorant of this deficiency in their tape systems. In fact, this is a big part of the reason why Spectra Logic brought a gaggle of analysts to its fall analyst event in Broomfield, CO – to share with us what is considered the six new attributes that a deep storage solution such as a tape library must offer to go from being an “outie” with organizations to once again being an “in” storage technology.

  • Provides a REST interface. This is a subset of HTTP which is a programming language that many programmers are familiar with and can write code. By offering a REST interface, tape libraries become a viable target to store data.
  • Persistent. The data storage solution must essentially maintain data forever. This includes transparently copying data to new media types, doing bit error detection and correction and ensuring that the integrity of the data is as viable 30, 50 or even 100 years from now as the day it was written.
  • Cost-effective. This refers to both the system’s up-front cost and cost over time. While tape and disk are arguably now about on par in terms of the upfront cost per GB, tape beats disk’s costs hand’s down over time. Further, a new generation of high capacity tape technologies is about to emerge that could re-establish tape’s lead over disk in its upfront cost per GB as well.
  • Energy efficient. Organizations are more sensitive than ever about ongoing operational costs and for data that is rarely accessed, they want storage solutions that minimize the impact to the bottom line over time.
  • Encryption. While this may not be a requirement in every environment, any organization housing sensitive personal information will need to encrypt it and have a means to manage the encryption keys for the life of the data.
  • Easy to deploy. This covers a number of bases to include providing web interfaces to access and manage it,  easy to setup and avoids using low-level block and file protocols as the only means to store data on it.

This is Spectra Logic’s outline for what storage solutions in general and tape libraries specifically must deliver to evolve to meet the next generation of end-user demands as well as remain relevant in today’s disk-centric world. Based on what else I saw and heard during the rest of the analyst conference and which will be formally announced by Spectra Logic tomorrow, Spectra Logic clearly took this principles to heart as it prepares to transform how people should view and deploy its tape solutions.


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