Backup tape libraries increasingly more reliable and durable

Are tape vendors doing anything to improve the durability of tapes themselves for long-term retention? How about tape library vendors? Can you outline any recent developments in backup tape libraries around reliability, performance or density?

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The latest-generation LTO-6 tape cartridges are significantly more durable than previous generations. Nevertheless, the user must play a part in maintaining, handling and storing the cartridges. The most common ways data can get corrupted on tape is simply leaving a tape cartridge unmaintained. Tape cartridges need to be run through tape drives on a regular basis to maintain the proper tension.

Tape library vendors are doing some exciting things in terms of density and robotics. The number of cartridges that can stay in a single library rack continues to rise; the speed with which a library can access even the most remote tape cartridge is improving (along with the accuracy with which libraries can pick a tape cartridge); and the number of racks that can be linked has increased significantly over the last several years.

Personally, I think that the bounds of physics limit new library developments past refinements to current technology. There are number of new technologies and recording methods that are being tested and proposed, but for now, the trajectory of Linear Tape-Open technology is what end users should expect. Other limitations include how much the speed of a mechanical device (such as a robot) can be increased without it losing accuracy.

However, one thing has to be emphasized is that with each generation of tape cartridges, the densities generally double.

This was first published in January 2014

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