Tape and optical data media on growth track

The exponentially growing demand for storage is presenting IT providers and manufacturers with ever greater challenges. Much of the data to be stored does not necessarily have to be highly available, and so data carriers such as tape or optical data carriers, which can provide considerable storage capacities in libraries - and the trend is rising!

Storage media are constantly evolving, but are barely managing to keep up with the rapidly growing need for storage. Applications such as the Internet of Things or the storage and availability of information for Big Data analyses or artificial intelligence require enormous storage capacities. As diverse as the data sources and producers are, the subsequent use of the information also varies. While some data must be available quickly, for other applications it is sufficient that the information is merely available for possible access.

The difference is significant because while high availability can be quite expensive to purchase and maintain, large amounts of data can be backed up quite inexpensively "nearline" on tape or optical libraries. While many IT managers no longer have these solutions on their radar because of the cloud, all common and professional storage management solutions offer outsourcing of data to storage giants that are inexpensive to operate and maintain, yet highly reliable.

While hard disk capacities doubled every 18 months for a long time, following Moore's Law, they are now slowly reaching technological limits that are slowing down the rate of growth. Although this can be compensated for by sheer mass in highly complex storage systems, ever more hard disks also always mean significantly higher energy consumption and CO² emissions for operating and cooling the constantly rotating storage towers.

Tape currently offers 18 terabytes of uncompressed storage capacity in a storage cartridge with the LTO9 standard, which can be compressed up to 45 terabytes. Fujifim recently announced a new world record in which they can achieve a storage density of 317 Gbpsi (gigabytes per square inch) while maintaining the same cartridge size to achieve a storage capacity of 580 terabytes.

While LTO tapes can only be read over 2 generations, optical media look back on an incomparable compatibility, as even today a 30 year old CD can be read in any commercially available Blu-ray drive. With an estimated 50-100 years of shelf life, archive media also outperform all other data carriers by a long way, because these usually have to be migrated to a new data carrier every 5 years at the latest.

Optical storage systems generally use standardized Blu-ray media in cartridges or in magazines. In terms of capacity, the current roadmap for Blu-rays currently provides for 500 GB per disc and side, which corresponds to one TB per medium and over 10 TB in a cartridge for double-sided media. In addition, there are also studies already underway in Asia and Australia that are working on 100 terabyte discs, which will then also catch up to tape cartridges in terms of capacity.

While modifiable data and backups are better off on tape, pure archive data belongs on optical media, because only these offer secure manipulation and inventory protection thanks to their write-once capability (trueWORM) and long shelf life. At the same time, high ongoing migration costs are reduced or avoided altogether and enormous energy-saving potential is exploited. It is therefore well worth considering which usage is to be taken into account with which data storage requirements.

In addition to storage, backup and archive hardware, INCOM also offers storage management software that moves data fully automatically to the most appropriate storage medium according to predefined rules.