by October 8, 2010 0 comments

We hear year after year that the tape is going to become extinct very soon, and hard drives will take over, but it continues to live, and is likely to remain there for many more years. The first reason for that is simple–price. A basic cost benefit analysis of tape technology against other storage media like HDDs reveals that Tape archival systems cost about a fifth of the price of disks.

Second reason is legal–many companies are bound by law to
archive their data for a specific period of time. Even today, major banks in India are ordering copious amounts of tapes for archival. They’re bound by law for archiving all their records for a specific period of time.

A third reason is technology. Tape vendors continue to introduce faster tapes with higher storage capacity. LTO (Linear Tape-Open) technology for instance, has a technology roadmap, with the latest generation being LTO-5, and plans already in place for 6, 7, and 8 generations. LTO-5’s cartridge capacity is nearly double of its sibling LTO-4, storing up to 1.5/3 TB of uncompressed/com-pressed data, and supporting a compressed transfer rate of up to 360 MB/s. Likewise, the future generations of the tape technology will be faster and better.
So even though HDDs and SSDs have benefits over other traditional storage tech, the average life of a normal hard disk drive is less than half of tapes. Tapes can be found to be working fine for up to 30 years.

Although hard disks and SSDs have a performance benefit over tapes, in terms of faster storage and retrieval, the basic pain point for these tech remains their high price. In case of archival systems, lower cost tilts the balance in favor of tapes as compared to the performance of the newer tech.

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