More than two years ago, I wrote about the persisting value of tape as an archival backup medium. At the time, the LTO-5 tape standard had recently been announced in an effort to stave off ever-increasing pressure from disk-to-disk backup products. Since then, a lot has changed. Although the nearly twice-as-capable LTO-6 tape standard will hit the market soon, disk-to-disk backup has become a much more popular way to back up the enterprise. Effective deduplication tech, high-performance scale-out disk backup appliances, and the challenges of effectively backing up and restoring virtual machines have all helped disk backup push tape to the margins.
But despite its falling costs and increasing performance, disk backup still can't do one thing that tape is especially good at: Get shipped to a vault, sit on a shelf for a long time, and remain ready to be restored from years later.
[ Discover the key technologies to speed archival storage and get quick data recovery in InfoWorld's Archiving Deep Dive PDF special report. ]
At their core, hard disks are still mechanical devices with components that aren't well suited to being tossed into the mail and sitting dormant for years. That's why you still usually find tape used for monthly and yearly archives, even in organizations that have switched to disks for daily backups and short-term retention. That's especially true in regulated industries like health care and banking where retaining those archives is mandatory.
The conventional wisdom is that tape is therefore here to stay, though unloved and hidden in warehouses far, far away. That conventional wisdom may be wrong. Amazon.com may have what will become the final nail in tape's coffin: Its new cloud-based archival storage, dubbed Glacier.