Tape Storage

Get in on the narrative, IBM Tape makes a comeback!

By Bob Graczyk posted Tue July 14, 2020 11:03 AM


Everyone loves a good comeback. Whether it's the inspirational experience of living through the triumph and ultimate sensation of success for a sports team achieving the impossible (Think USA's Miracle on Ice!) or the revival of a legacy technology tape-based backup solution. People want to be along for the ride, be part of the narrative and share in some of the triumph without actually participating.

There's another comeback that's in progress and it's in hardware. You and your clients get a chance to be part of this comeback and be part of the narrative. At one time tape technology was generally considered quite simply a legacy product at best, but surprisingly it's mounting a comeback.

Why is tape becoming relevant again? Well, it provides some of the best keywords commonly used in the storage industry: secure and cost-efficient.

"The latest tape drives provide a secure and cost-efficient storage infrastructure for a backup or archive platform," said Mark Hill, program director of tape development at IBM.

"With malware concerns on the rise, tape provides a great air-gap solution, which means you can easily pull a tape cartridge offline and simply store it on a shelf, creating a physical barrier or 'air gap' between hackers and your data," Hill said.

IBM tape-based data storage solutions offer many data protection features. Besides data encryption and key management, you can configure tape as write once, read many (WORM) technology to ensure your data once written cannot be tampered or modified at all.

Tape-based technology can also help your organization monitor data center costs, such as power and cooling. For example, if you have data that you don't need to access for awhile storing this data on tape is wise in order to reduce your storage costs.

While hardly anyone expects tape to become the dominant approach it once was, IBM, the leading tape storage vendor worldwide, continues to find ways to make tape technology remain relevant.

IBM's high performance tape innovation

The new recently delivered TS7700 fits the bill! This model helps to create a fully integrated tiered storage hierarchy that can take advantage of both disk and tape technologies to deliver high performance for active data and better economics for inactive and archive data.

Built with some of the most advanced POWER9 processors, the TS7770 includes enhancements that help provide improved security, scalability, reliability and performance to IBM Z and LinuxONE servers. [1]

Perhaps most importantly, the TS7770 supports the IBM Z suite of data protection technologies collectively labeled as “pervasive encryption.” Essentially, pervasive encryption means that IBM Z mainframes encrypt data at the host level, in-flight across the network and at rest in storage. [1]

“Part of the reason we use IBM Z is for their security and resilience. But this means that our storage and archiving systems must offer just as much security. This is why we’ve turned to IBM solutions such as TS7700 virtual tape libraries. They help us lower costs while allowing us to implement ‘air gaps’ for the ultimate data security. We see IBM TS7700 as the future of data archiving and protection," stated Andreas Kirrstetter, Platform Manager Tape Infrastructure of IBM client Fiducia & GAD IT AG.

The TS7770 provides additional data protection features such as an encryption key manager, encryption-enabled drives and management of encryption and keys down to the individual storage pool level.[1]

IBM Spectrum Archive

Innovation at IBM has also led to another strategy for mitigating the long access times of tape—software-defined storage. IBM Spectrum Archive is part of the IBM Spectrum Storage software portfolio, which is designed to address data storage inefficiencies by changing the economics of storage with a layer of intelligent software. This archive stores every bit of data at an optimal cost, helping maximize performance while ensuring greater security. With the power of IBM Spectrum Archive, you can take advantage of the air gap provided by tape and gain much faster access to data assets.

There's more! IBM Spectrum Archive also integrates with the scalability, manageability and performance of another IBM Spectrum Storage Suite member, IBM Spectrum Scale. This file management platform enables enterprises to move beyond simply adding storage and toward more fully optimizing the managing of data.

With the best storage buddies, IBM Spectrum Archive and IBM Spectrum Scale, working together across storage environments, enterprises can have their air gap—and their data too!

Cloud and tape is that a thing?

Did you know that some cloud providers are also using tape as part of their infrastructure to offer secure, low-cost archive solutions?

Because cyber attacks are increasing exponentially the importance of data protection, putting into practice a storage strategy that combines tape and cloud makes sense. Tape and cloud storage solutions can coexist, working together to lower storage costs, increase data accessibility and ensure the reliability of storage solutions.

“Ultimately, tape is no longer about offsite storage; it’s about offline storage. Protecting data against ransomware and other malware attacks requires offline data protection. And tape is the most effective and cost-efficient method of providing it. If storage needs have mutated in recent years, tape’s role has changed rather than disappeared. As an offline medium, it still offers the best protection against emerging forms of cybersecurity threats and can be perfectly adapted to long-term storage needs, helping businesses now and in the years to come." [2]

The ongoing innovation within IBM tape offers a smaller footprint and lower entry cost option, for the data storage challenges of today—and tomorrow.

It's simple, using IBM's high-capacity tape solutions is just good strategy for your data protection plan.

For more information on IBM TS7700, see the TS7700 IBM Knowledge Center.

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1 - IBM Systems Solution Brief - IBM tape solutions provide modern and powerful data protection

2- DCD: The enduring role of tape in the storage industry: moving from offsite to offline storage, November 2018