back to article Disk-pushers, get reel: Even GOOGLE relies on tape

Tape has spent some time on the ropes, but now it's back in the ring. After suffering five or more years of onslaught from pro-disk fanatics drunk on disk deduplication technologies, reality has struck home. Tape is cheaper than disk*. Tape is more reliable than disk and, the killer, tape's storage capacity can go on increasing …


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  1. Jan 0

    A fine article,

    apart from the spurious introduction of "gun pr0n". Do you, by any chance, aspire to be a Hollywood movie director?

    ObTape: If the areal density of tape is so ridiculously low and we have the technology to write discs at very high density, what's stopping us from having PetaByte tapes today rather than in 10 years time?

    1. Geoff Campbell

      Re: A fine article,

      The substrate, I'd guess. Tape is a lot less precise and stable than disk.

      Mind you, can you imagine LTO-6 (or -7, or -8) tape on an 18" reel, with a big upright tape drive like we used to have in the '70s? That'd be awesome!


      1. Jim 59

        real density to 100Gbit/in2

        On tape? Amazing. Hard to imagine how it is done. That is equivalent to about 6 Gigabytes per inch of DLT tape.

  2. Geoff Campbell

    It's all about the surface area.

    Tape has much, much more surface area than disk, on a much cheaper (if somewhat flimsier) substrate. Thus, cost per bit stored is way lower, at least once you've got enough data to write off the purchase of the tape drive.


  3. Suricou Raven

    Fiddling the numbers.

    I wish the vendors would stop giving 'compressed' capacity. The bulk of data going on tape now consists of already-compressed multimedia and already-compressed office documents. That 2:1 is hopelessly optimistic.

  4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    I remember when getting 120Mbyte on a 2400' reel of 6250bps tape was a lot...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there a more updated version of that paper? It's from 2010.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why you need a ZX Microdrive...

    Have they improved tape's loading speed from the 8-bit days?

    If the ZX Spectrum could look approximately 16 KB in a minute (*), that's around 960 KB an hour, 23 MB in a day, 713 MB in a month (around a CD-R's worth) and 8.395 GB per year (around a dual-layer DVD's worth).

    Or put another way, a gigabyte would take 44.5 days to load, a terabyte a thousand times longer at 44,500 days (i.e. 122 years), a petabyte 122,000 years, an exabyte 122 million years (which is probably in the ballpark of the uncompressed maximum capacity of IBM's 2.7 exabyte robot library).

    And I bet that 121,999,999 years, 364 days, 23 hours and 58 minutes into the loading time it would say "R Tape Loading Error, 0:1"


  7. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Cost and offline capability

    I'd say there's two big things pushing for tape:

    1) Cost. for most uses this is the big one, and mainly what is discussed in the article.

    2) Archival. A tape system, you can put some stuff on tape, pull the tapes and stick them in a drawer, and (barring tape failure) you will get the same information back. An online system? Most support replacing files with different versions, and removing files; in some cases a misplaced "rm -R *" could nuke your primary *and* secondary copy. These in other words are good for backups but not necessarily archival.

    There's definitely use for both, but I don't see tape going away any time soon.

  8. Dick Emery

    Yea Gods!

    Woody Allen's Sleeper was right (You know which scene I mean)!

  9. gnufrontier

    Non-accessible archive

    Tape is the landfill of archiving. There are legal requirements regarding storage. There's also the nuclear option during litigation when one can back up a few vans full of tapes and say to the plaintiff - here you go - it's in there somewhere.

  10. mhenriday
    Big Brother

    Any information you'd care to share, Chris,

    on what sort of storage techniques are being used out Camp Williams-way ?...


  11. cs94njw

    I have photos I want to keep safe.

    I could back them up to my external hard drive - but there is a definite possibility this drive could fail and I lose my photos.

    I could back them up to the cloud - but a few cloud providers have crashed and lost data.

    I want backup storage that won't degrade over time, and can't be affected by random phenomina.

    Tape, if kept relatively safe, seems to be more resilient than hard disks. I would be interested in a cheap tape storage system.

    But to be honest, I'd prefer something hardier to keep my data "crown jewels" in. Perhaps something akin to scraping holes in records or somesuch.

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