"The best storage solutions combine both disk and tape to take advantage of the strengths of each at the appropriate time to optimize data management," said Jon Hiles, senior product manager for Spectra Logic. "Utilizing both storage types helps diversify business risks that one or the other can't mitigate individually."
Spectra Logic Tape Products
Contrary to the hype around disk-based backup, tape is far from dead. In fact, it remains a $3 billion a year industry, according to Fred Moore, president of storage analyst firm Horison, Inc.
"Perceptions of tape are not current with the latest developments and improvements in the tape industry," he said. "These developments include much longer media life, improved drive reliability, higher duty cycles and much faster data rates than any previous tape drives."
Spectra Logic, for example, continues to innovate in this area, selling seven tape library products. These are the T50e, T120, T200, T380, T680, T950 and T-Finity. These automated tape libraries are used for a variety of purposes, said Hiles, including archive, backup, and disaster recovery. Under the Spectra Logic naming system, higher numbers generally mean more capacity and greater functionality.
Let's take a look at a few examples.
The T50e addresses small enterprise, satellite office and departmental use for customers with tens of TB of data. Within a 4U height, it can fit 10 to 50 tape cartridge slots. This amounts to 150 TB when using the latest compressed LTO5 tape standard. The T50e also can have one to four tape drives HH (half height) or one to two tape drives FH (full height). This unit is priced at $14,500 and includes one HH tape drive.
"All Spectra libraries include integrated encryption as well as media monitoring and data integrity verification for archive purposes at no extra charge," said Hiles.
The Spectra Logic T380, on the other hand, is for midrange to large enterprises managing hundreds of TBs to PBs of data. It comes with 50 to 380 slots, for a total of 1.1 PB of compressed LTO5 storage. Included with this 28U height, rack-based model are 12 FH tape drives. A base library is priced at $51,380.
Finally, the Spectra Logic T-Finity is aimed squarely at the high end - large enterprise, Fortune 500 and high performance computing sites with multiple PBs of data. As such, it is armed with up to 30,520 slots to hold 91.5 PB of compressed LTO5 and up to 120 FH tape drives. A base unit is priced at $218,000.
"T-Finity has the largest slot count of any single library," said Hiles. "Our T-Finity and T950 libraries also have the highest slot density of any library on the market."
What should buyers look for? Hiles suggested they pay close attention to total cost of ownership, data integrity, availability over extended periods of time and ease of use.
"Important factors are high density along with low power consumption, an inclusive feature set (which means you don't have to buy lots of add-ons), and a proven roadmap so you can ensure your data can be retained for decades," said Hiles.
He is far from convinced about the all-pervasiveness of disk. In fact, he sees tape libraries growing in importance, as data volumes continue to mushroom.
"We are noticing a resurgence of tape for archive and long-term data retention, as well as a continued emphasis on reducing TCO by deploying the latest tape innovations and tape automation," said Hiles.
Spectra Logic Disk Storage
While tape dominates the Spectra Logic product portfolio, the company also sells a couple of Disk Storage Servers -- the nTier 500 and nTier 700.
"nTier disk systems combine both a disk array and Windows storage server into a single rack mountable unit," said Kevin Dudak, a senior product manager at Spectra Logic.
The nTier 500, for example, serves the SME, satellite office and departmental markets. It is available in 8 TB to 32 TB capacity configurations, with 8 GB to 32 GB of memory, deduplication support, tape library connectivity and enough space to allow backup and archive applications to run directly on the disk system.
"nTier combines the typical backup server and disk target into a single device, which reduces deployment time and lowers the complexity of the backup environment," said Dudak. "It uses the BlueScale management system Spectra T-Series users already are accustomed to."
He recommended potential buyers determine their real needs in advance and look beyond the hype when evaluating disk systems. The added price tag that sometimes comes with deduplication, for example, isn't always worth it, he said.
"Deduplication can be great for many organizations, but isn't a fit for everyone," said Dudak.
He also made a big point about disaster recovery and ease of use. There are many fancy systems out there with all kinds of bells and whistles. What is more important, though, is simplicity of deployment and management.
"In a disaster, complexity is the enemy," said Dudak.
He noticed the disk storage market is evolving, particularly when it comes to the ability of RAID technology to work with the growing size of drives and storage systems and to address data integrity. In addition, solid state drive technology (also known as Flash) is adding functionality.
"The industry is benefiting from continued innovation with flash/SSD caching on SATA systems to create higher performing, high-density storage," said Dudak.
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).