Not Only Is Tape Dead, Backup Is Too

I just finished reading a piece of marketing nonsense hoo-hah from Iron Mountain that argues that tape isn’t dead. Methinks Iron Mountain doth protest to much. Let’s see, what’s Iron Mountain’s digital business? Oh, that’s right – tape vaulting. The death of tape, and Iron Mountain’s sudden exit from cloud-based storage and backup, must be cause for alarm in Boston.

Now, before I go any further, let me be clear that yes, I know that tape is being used today, and not technically dead… yet. When nScaled and others proclaim the death of tape, it’s a bit of hyperbole, and we expect people to understand that. But the sentiment, that using tapes for backup has been obsoleted by disk-to-disk technologies, is correct, and we can expect to see the use of tape decline steadily during the next 5-10 years.

Where nScaled parts with many others is that we also think that backup is dead, further mooting the discussion of tape’s role in IT.

What has happened in the last five years is that technologies, and costs, have aligned to make disaster recovery easier than backup while costing less. Storage, bandwidth and co-lo space keep getting cheaper. Virtualization – of servers, storage and networking – are mature and competitive technologies. Ditto continuous data protection (snapshotting) technologies.

 …disaster recovery easier than backup while costing less

Put it all together, and you have real, off-site, disaster recovery for prices that match backup-only solutions. Backup becomes a by-product of DR, not a standalone solution. With real DR, you can recover not just data, but an entire server, running at a remote location, with end-users connected to it and being productive. Try that with a tape.

Yes, tape is still in use today. But it’s a dead-end technology. If you were making buggy whips in 1910, you had a choice – ignore cars and pretend that your buggy whip business would prosper in the long term, or acknowledge that the world had changed, and change with it. And now it’s true of backup, another dead-end technology. This is the choice that corporate IT faces today.

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