Tape Storage

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5 Things you probably didn’t know about data storage on tape

By Shawn Brume posted Tue July 13, 2021 09:41 AM


In a world of quickening pace, it is easy to get wrapped up in the music of high-performance nano bits and flash storage. The realism of compute and data is much more complex. As the case of the tortoise and the hare goes, slow and steady often wins the race.  In this case we could conceivably believe that tape is the slow and steady.  After nearly 70 years in the market tape is still winning the race of data retention.

 Let’s get down to business:

What are the 5 things you probably did not know about tape?

 Durable – Data durability is the likelihood that data can be retrieved at any point in time during the retention period (see Wikipedia for details). The standard for reporting the durability of data in any infrastructure is to report that value in “nines”. Cloud providers for cold storage report 11-nines of durability, which is achieved with 3 copies of data erasure coded. Tape is 11-nines of durability with a single copy of data! (See Insic roadmap computations)

  • Demonstrated Future – Technology is always introduced in a pattern of demonstration of the future, design proof and then release to the market. That is regardless of the type of technology.  In the storage industry, HDDs started rapid demonstration to market cycles around 2000.  This was a defacto requirement of the rapidly expanding computer adoption by consumers.  HDD has traditionally demonstrated 2 generations forward looking. HDD is working on 24TB per unit demonstrations that are 5 years forward looking. Tape has demonstrated 580TB per cartridge, looking forward to the next decade!

  • High Performance – Performance is often focused on IoPS, in the data storage world we tend to look at performance as the data rate supported by the medium. Both HDD and Tape have unit data rates of between 300MBpS and 400MBpS of native data. Both tape drives and HDDs can be aggregated into larger controller-based systems for very high data rates. A single TS4500 can support 184.3TB per Hour of data transfer!

  • Easy-to-Use – Flash and HDD have become the de-facto for ease of use. Mostly driven by the easy availability of unstructured data software. What is often not known is that tape connects to servers and controllers in the same manner as HDD. Tape connects to filesystems and object storage as a tier of storage, and the data on tape is an open format that anyone can use.

  • Sustainable – Sustainability is not a buzzword, the efforts and outcomes directly contribute to, or impact the world around us. Technology is one of the few places that getting to a carbon neutral footprint is achievable with offset investment. At the same time, true sustainability starts at the design of products and architectures. Data storage offers huge possibility to start the Hyperscale data center (see the IDC definition) journey at up to 90% reduction in CO2e production. Equivalent data capacity storage on tape is 92% lower CO2e production than HDD.


 In general tape is misunderstood due to the lack of reason.  Often we see people refer to tape problems with reel to reel…a technology not available since the 1980’s.  Would you compare a 5 ¼” floppy disk to your flash drive for file storage?

Tape is economical, high capacity, high performance, sustainable technology that has a long-term data durability that is unsurpassed by any other storage technology.  From 100TB to 100Exabytes the economics do not lie, save your HDD and install tape. 

1 comment



Wed July 14, 2021 09:01 AM

Shawn,  very valid points on Tape Solutions.  Are you aware there were some short discussion videos on Tape Solution / offerings.  It is posted to the Advanced Technology Group (ATG) Media Center page.  Take a look under Tape 5 short videos that discuss the Tape outline.   

ATG-Storage Media Channel