While performing data center relocation services, our Clancy Relocation & Logistics Data Center Technicians recently saw giant robots working in a data center. Large Robotic Tape Libraries, like the StorageTek SL8500 are still in use today because off site tape storage is still mandatory for many government agencies. Will the requirement ever change? Even if governments are allowed to use other methods in the future, would it make sense? It seems the growing capacity to store data is still outpacing the growing capacity to transmit data. And perhaps some of the largest tape back-up applications, like that of an e-911 system, will still stay on tape for quite a while longer. While businesses are moving more of their applications to cloud based servers, the backup solution they receive is perhaps based on how much data is being backed up.
“For large data-storage, they (tapes) are a more cost-effective solution than most hard drives, and they also provide systematic access to very large quantities of data. The tradeoff for their larger capacity is their slower access time, which usually involves mechanical manipulation of tapes. Access to data in a library takes from several seconds to several minutes.
Because of their slow sequential access and huge capacity, tape libraries are primarily used for backups and as the final stage of digital archiving. A typical application of the latter would be an organization’s extensive transaction record for legal or auditing purposes. Another example is hierarchical storage management (HSM), in which tape library is used to hold rarely used files from file systems.” (source: Wikipedia)
Moving forward, it is hard to see tape libraries sticking around for the long-term. Tape libraries do eliminate a single point of failure when stored remotely. They are also inexpensive. But the cost of hard drive storage is always headed down and cloud server solutions can provide resilient backup solutions across multiple data centers. Moving hard drives is more expensive than moving tapes. Tapes are also less fragile than hard drives. You can drop a tape on the ground and still have your data. That is important for disaster recovery. Doing the same with hard drives will probably result in data loss.
Smaller businesses are finding it viable to backup date over a network today. Eventually the cost and capacity to transmit data over a network will improve enough for large data backup to eliminate the cost of tape backup.