The return of tape storage

The Lowdown

What are they? Tape storage devices run the gamut from small, PC-related systems to large enterprise tape libraries.

What do they do? Any tape storage and backup system has the ability to copy all or designated amounts of data from original sources, such as hard drives, onto tape cartridges so they will not be lost in a system crash.

When do I need a tape library? When your present or future storage requirements call for a highly scalable system capable of storing terabytes or more of data.

Must-know info? A revolution in tape-drive technology has created a new generation of intelligent tape libraries capable of scaling up or down to meet virtually all your storage requirements.

Not long ago, tape storage technology seemed to be on its way out. The growing demands of electronic storage ? for imaging, multimedia, streaming video and other data-intensive applications ? led people to question whether older generations of tape drives and libraries could compete with fast-growing optical technologies. But recent technological developments have helped tape libraries regain their status in large enterprises.

Enterprises need storage technology that is cost-effective, delivers media investment protection and fits with needs. No technology better meets these requirements than tape, according to a research report from the Aberdeen Group, a Boston computer and communications market research and consulting firm.

Aberdeen and other analysts noted a new generation of drives that use cartridges with much higher storage and throughput capabilities, higher quality tapes and higher data-compression ratios than ever before.

These superdrives let tape library manufacturers make better, more cost-effective and highly scalable libraries. By adding drives and tape cartridges to a base model, you can scale tape libraries from 100 gigabytes or so of storage to terabytes of data, or even petabytes if four or five more units are added to the base library.

Manufacturers are developing newer generations of drives that will increase capacity, performance and speed.

Sony has plans for much faster drives, including its new Super-AIT (S-AIT) series, which produces 500 gigabytes of capacity by using 5.25-inch drives and better compression ratios.

Meanwhile, Quantum's plans include the Super DLT 2400 drive, scheduled for release in 2006. Its native capacity will be 1.2 terabytes with a 200 megabytes-per-second transfer rate.

And the LTO Ultrium migration path calls for development of a Generation 3 that will provide 400 gigabytes of native capacity and 40 megabytes per second to 80 megabytes per second of throughput. Plans for Ultrium Generation 4 call for doubling those numbers.

J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers. E-mail him at

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