When we talk about data storage media, one name that pops up in the list is magnetic tapes. But, amongst the flurry of new trends, technologies and buzzwords in the storage industry, do magnetic tapes still hold their position in the list? Owing to tech developments, many people think that tape is dead. But, trust us, it’s a myth and not a reality. The truth is, although the role of tape as a backup is declining, its use for creating data archives and cold storage is on the rise. According to recent studies, large cloud providers are using tape storage devices as the medium to create data backups or to provide a secure tier of storage to their customers.
At present, more and more business organizations’ core information, collective knowledge, and data are becoming digital. Hence survival amidst the cybersecurity threats becomes quite challenging for business firms. To avoid any data loss situations, firms have to make use of the effective and reliable backup of data. And this where the tape storage medium comes into the picture. The tape is the economical, friendly, reliable medium that firms can use for long term preservation of data. At present, tape is used by a wide range of industries for storing valuable and confidential data. Do you know tape storage is the preferred medium of choice for academic and supercomputing institutions that make use of the fastest computers in the world? Other areas of application include medical and health care organizations, who use tape for storing vast quantities of sensitive information like patients’ medical history and corporate data, scans and x-rays. Oil and gas industries also use a tape storage medium to create a secure data backup.
What is a tape storage medium?
Magnetic tape is the storage medium that stores data bits on a substrate of Mylar plastic. The storage medium consists of a reel with heads that is responsible for performing read and write operations. The tape also consists of motors that are used for performing rewind and advance operations; all these components are present in the plastic or metal case. As a user, you must also be aware of the vital difference between cassette tapes of the ’80s and ’90s and the urban enterprise-grade backup tape, which uses electronic circuits, stronger materials, and grip points for robotic arms. Modern tape media uses high-speed robots for retrieving, organizing, and maintaining the tape media.
Linear Tape Open (LTO) is the industry standard for the tape storage device, which you have to look for when purchasing the storage media. Also, there are tape storage devices that are designed to meet the massive storage needs of large enterprises. Owing to the latest trends in data storage technology, tape continually meets the long term backup and data archive requirements of numerous organizations irrespective of their size. Even with the new data technologies available in the market, firms use the tape storage media for storing large volumes of cold or inactive data. Although tape doesn’t offer the highest levels of performance or lowest latency, tape storage meets the four vital data storage trends, which is the reason why tape has maintained its position as a useful storage device even at present. The innovation and integration of tape with modern systems is the reason why the storage media is alive and competing with the cloud and other advanced storage technologies. The four key advantages that tape offers to customers include:
- Tape storage media is highly flexible. You can use it with a block, file, or object storage environment. Also, you can integrate tape with any storage solution or IT environment.
- The tape is extremely dense and therefore requires less floor space and power.
- The tape is more cost-effective as compared to the other storage devices. It’s more economical than flash drives and still the preferred storage technology for preserving important data safely and at a lower cost for an extended period.
New trends in tape storage technology you must know about
Although backup remains the primary use case for tape, the future growth opportunities lie in the new and emerging areas. At present tape has become a low cost and secure storage media for massive unstructured data. With the latest trends, the tape industry is keeping up with the storage development curve with the new layers of technology. Due to the most recent innovations, tape technology has safeguarded its position as a critical storage platform for new data-intensive environments and new use cases. Certain technological developments like advanced artificial intelligence, rich applications that leverage video streaming data, and the internet of things are the reason why the tape market is now moving towards long-term retention of massive data stores.
The tape development includes greater and more effective coding, search, self-data integrity checking, better data management tools like remote web-based control, and more automation. Storage density is also improving thanks to innovations like multichannel heads with gap scatter and new substrates for denser recording surfaces. These innovations are responsible for making tape a key technology in the rich data environments. The new trends in a tape storage medium that have redefined the magnetic storage industry include:
- Anti-ransomware in tape storage: Ransomware has become the cause of stress for business organizations as well as government agencies. For securing data against a malware attack, firms and government organizations are in a constant search for secure data backups. And this is where tape storage media comes to the rescue of firms. With the anti-ransomware development, tape offers new levels of security that help save millions of dollars during a data loss situation. Tape offers unique security features because of its air gap, which means tape cartridges remain offline 95 % of the time. In the past, businesses would restore data backup over encrypted production of data to get protection against ransomware. But in reality, attack loops infect networked backups as well, irrespective of whether they are on the network or in the cloud. So, if your backup is on tape, you have an excellent chance to recover data.
- Internet of things makes use of tape: Hyperscale is large public cloud providers that make use of a lower-cost infrastructure to offer services to customers. Trust us, cloud providers may not accept the fact, but they make use of the tape for economical cloud data storage. Another trend is the use of tape technology in the highway infrastructure field. Tape storage media are used at present for storing data in the Internet of Things (IoT) domain as well. IoT refers to multiple data input sources present at the end of the physical domain, like home, office, factory, and even a smart city. Tape storage media helps in storing vast volumes of edge sensor data for analyzing, reporting, and managing to increase information efficiency.
- M&E data mining: The latest invention in tape technology is the developments in the data mining field. Data mining is a valuable driver for tape technology. For instance, the sports industry often needs to locate video where a specific athlete hit a homerun or delivered a gold-winning performance. And, for storing such sensitive and crucial videotape, tape storage devices are put to use. Also, tape storage media find applications in M&E because of their large and inexpensive capacity for storing large broadcast files.
- Capacity developments: Trust us: in terms of capacity developments, tape has more potential than the other storage devices, the reason being it has more surface area compared to disk platters or optical DVDs. The greater surface area has the potential to enable capacities of upwards of 220 TB of storage per cartridge. This capacity development is responsible for the significant reduction in the cost per GN of tape storage, which is responsible for the longevity of the tape storage device.
- Tunneling magnetoresistance (TMR) technology: At present, the latest technology is gaining a lot of attention from every end, as it’s responsible for enhancing tape’s potential storage capacity. TMR focuses on changing the direction of the magnetic current to alter the electrical charges. TMR will also replace the giant magnetoresistance drive head present in the tape drives. The technology is also responsible for maximizing the surface area by reducing the area where we write data bits.
- Improvement in performance: With each generation, the performance of the tape device increases. At present, robot arms have undergone various improvements that result in an increase in the speed of accessing specific tapes within the data library.
As we come to an end, it will be right to say that tape is neither old nor obsolete data storage media. With continuous developments and innovations, the tape is becoming the top favorite storage technology amongst business firms. When it comes to long-term cost-effective data preservation, nothing can beat tape storage media. Tape storage meets various current IT priorities like reliability, savings, and scalability, to name a few.