Continuing on my pro-tape meme, I wanted to document in my blog for later follow-up, some notes about developments in that technology space.
I know, tape was supposed to be dead 13 years ago. Gartner was paid a lot of money to say so in 1999 – in a report they now say they can not remember publishing. That report, which I read and complained about vociferously at the time, stated that 1 in 10 tapes fail on restore. Gartner now disavows this statement too in a classic Romney-esque bit of etch-a-sketchery.
Heck, EMC built its entire business on the tape-is-dead thing, achieving considerable success at substituting disk-to-disk replication for miles of mylar. They doubled down when they bought Data Domain with its Tape Sucks, Move On bumper stickers, endeavoring to popularize deduplicating VTL to VTL replication for that tape stuff for users of every size.
All the while, the tape industry took it on the chin with hardly a whimper. They tried several times to form alliances to counter the disinformation and defamation campaigns of disk vendors and deduplicators, but always seemed a bit befuddled. The effort with which I was involved was eventually evicerated by EMC-dominated SNIA, which effectively killed it in its cradle by discouraging technology vendors from joining the upstart group, creating a funding embargo.
Yet, as Storage Switzerland reported in his May 21 blog from EMC World, attitudes around tape seem to have come full circle in Hopkinton, with Spectra Logic products being featured prominently in EMC’s exhibit hall and underreported statements flying around blogs and business wires about EMC’s intention to resell Spectra Logic tape automation products to fill out its line of storage solutions, especially for medium-sized customers. Curious, that.
Last month’s 60th birthday party for tape was supposed to be like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – your basic nostalgia trip with politically correct rituals and courtesies shown to a respected but “mostly irrelevant” figure head. Or like the birthday celebration for grandpa, whose stories about FDR and the Depression we simply adore but find to be somewhat less relevant to the current state of politics and economics than he suggests.
We expected the obligatory articles to be written looking back at the heyday of tape, including perhaps a snarky-but-soft-peddled ”pre-obituary” or two – like putting a single candle on grandpa’s birthday cake both in conformance with fire laws and also to spare him the embarassment of accidentally ejecting his dentures when he tries to wheeze out a fire extinguishing exhale. Those all happened, of course, but they didn’t resonate with readers.
Like the Queen’s Jubilee, which benefitted from an uptick in the monarch’s popularity that can be attributed in part to a sharp decline in popular support for the austerity agenda of the active government and growing contempt for Murdoch’s tabloids (long-time critics of the Queen), tape benefitted from a similar set of phenomena within the storage industry.
Dedupe hadn’t delivered on its business case and, like the rent, cost too damned much. Plus, with the economic downturn, no one could afford to keep fielding more and more spinning rust – at least not at the pace required by the data deluge. Like Murdoch’s hatchet men, the old anti-tape voices at EMC were sounding increasingly tinny.
Add in the fact that cool new technologies were being blended into the tape mix — from Barrium Ferrite coating that promised to deliver LTO cartridges with 30+ TB of capacity uncompressed to the Linear Tape File Systems that enabled tape systems to become practical and low cost mega-NAS platforms. Suddenly, grandpa looked to be much more physically fit, with well-defined muscles, a sharp mind, and an acid wit. He spent most of the time at his 60th charming his grandson’s girlfriend, looking a lot like the most interesting man in the world, posing a real threat for her affections and creating quite a bit of consternation for grandma. Not what the mainstream tech media expected at all!
Today, tape is in a renaissance. You can feel it in every tape vendor shop I visit, and among the tape mavens in companies that once had to fight for scraps in the IT budget.
I hear it in the voices at FujiFilm, whose tape-based cloud storage offering is garnering a powerful constituency in healthcare that promises to go horizontal.
I hear it in the voices and demeanor of the tape backers at IBM who seem to be finding new purpose as tape popularity grows. They stayed the course and now find redemption to be within grasp.
It’s good to be the king.
I hear that grandpa tape is planning to jump on his Harley and to join up with his fellow outlaw biker, mainframe, to make the long slog out to Sturgis in August. Can’t keep the old guy down.