As 60th anniversary nears, tape reinvents itself

Streaming media, the cloud and Big Data will play important roles in tape's future.

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Tape also natively offers greater security in a multitenant cloud environment.

When disks are used for cloud storage, disk drive arrays use deduplication and thin-provisioning to compress data and reduce capacity requirements. RAID is also used to break up and spread data at the block level across disks for data resiliency. Metadata mapping tables are required to find the data across massive disk arrays in a cloud environment.

Additional software is also required to ensure that any given customer's data is securely isolated from every other user on a given disk or array.

In LTO tape environments, however, each tape cartridge is a separate object. The customer or cloud provider has control over what's on each one. Tape libraries can also be partitioned, offering many virtual libraries to a cloud customer while denying any inter-accessibility.

Tape is also positioned to play a key role in the world of Big Data.

Big Data -- an all-encompassing term referring any kind of data, structured or unstructured, that an entity stores -- has sparked the use of distributed computing software such as Map Reduce and batch data analytics tools to extrapolate business information that can be used for marketing, sales and other business operations.

The lion's share of big data resides in unstructured file formats, such as email documents, computer logs, Internet search data, seismic data, business informatics, music, videos and photos.

Currently, the digital universe (all digitally stored data worldwide) is made up of 1.8 trillion gigabytes stored in 500 quadrillion files. Over the next four years, the amount of file-based data will grow by a factor of eight, according to IDC's 2011 Digital Universe Study.

In order to access corporate archives, Map Reduce applications such as Apache Hadoop need access to vast data stores, and tape libraries with petabytes and even exabytes of capacity fill that role perfectly, said IDC's Amatruda.

"That's where you'll see more of the tools in analytics being wrapped around tape," Amatruda said. "That's the next phase of integration and investment: the ability to sort that data effectively and mine it."

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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