There’s still a lot of life left in tape backup

This industry likes to abandon technologies as soon as it adopts them, but a few find a way to hang around. I recently purchased a car, and in the finance office was a dot matrix printer, chugging away at the same multipage forms I saw used more than 25 years ago.

Tape backup is also hanging in there. With data being produced in ever-increasing numbers, it has to be stored somewhere, and hard drives aren’t enough. For true mass backup, enterprises are still turning to tape backup, and the LTO Program Technology Provider Companies (TPCs) say 2017 shipments grew 12.9 percent over 2016 to 108,457 petabytes (PB) of tape capacity.

LTO TPCs is a group consisting of three tape backup providers: HPE, IBM, and Quantum. There are other tape backup providers, such as Oracle, which inherited the StorageTek business from Sun Microsystems and still sells them, but it was not included in the count.

Actual unit shipments dropped slightly in 2017, which the organization attributes to customers waiting for new LTO-8-based units to ship. LTO-8 technology offers a compressed transfer rate of 750MB/sec., an improvement over LTO-7’s 400MB/sec. And capacity is increasing to 30TB compressed per cartridge, which is up from 22TB compressed in LTO-7. So, the TPCs are anticipating even higher growth in 2018 as the new LTO-8 products come to market.