Is there still a place for the virtual tape library?

Today, a great number of different storage mediums exist whose purpose is to retain information in some manner. One of the oldest data storage mediums, the tape, is a linear storage system that still has great application with today’s revisions to this long standing technology.

Implementing tape storage within virtual storage infrastructure can be a great asset to a backup and recovery solution for many industries.

The tape storage system sequentially stores data on drives that utilise a magnet tape as a storage medium. The core design of tape has existed for many years but has been refined to operate more efficiently and reliably while sustaining the immense amount of information needed in today’s storage solutions.

Most of today’s tape drives resemble the form factor of a cassette tape rather than the big projector-like reels which slowly rotated in the computing labs, seen in early science fiction movies. Tape drives function at high enough speeds to keep up with data streams needed for properly configured backup interfaces.

A modern tape storage tape’s design is such that it should rarely fall victim to “start/stop operation,” a common problem in older designs that caused data loss from the damage cause to the tape during this process.

A virtual tape library takes the essence of archival tape storage and implements it in a virtual sense.

Though the name implies that the storage is tape based, it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Virtual volumes can be created to use a modern hard disk, for example, as the actual storage medium for a virtual tape volume.

Storage is allocated based on data usage as whether the information will be readily available on a hard drive cache, the hard disk itself or actual tape storage media.

In order for the read and write times to sync together, especially when various storage platforms are included within such virtual environment, the system has to be appropriately configured to avoid operational glitches.

A virtual tape server platform is needed to administrate how data is buffered and allocated into storage.

In a general sense, this means that archival data will buffer to be written to the slowest medium while data that is accessed more regularly will be written to faster mediums and data that is in constant use will mostly remain in the hard drive cache as it is simultaneously put into permanent storage at certain intervals.

Ideally, the best virtual tape storage system should include a variety of storage mediums but predominantly utilise tape storage for archival purposes.

Tape is the lowest cost of all storage mediums which makes it ideal to backup non critical data for record retention purposes. In a virtual environment, storage mediums should be configured with data retrieval hierarchy in consideration.

Utilising solid state storage media as part of virtual tape library, in addition to standard platter based drives can appropriate data to the best medium, based on the classification of the data.

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