Tapezilla vs Bluraya: battle of the archive beasts

Tapezilla vs Bluraya: battle of the archive beasts

Summary: Archive media are more important than ever for both legal and personal reasons. There's a fight between an enterprise stalwart upgraded with nanoparticles and a consumer-based 300GB optical with superhero endurance.


In rapidly growing market potential competitors may not see each other for years. But slow-growth market are different: the competition is very clear; and you see them all the time.

Tape is the archiving champ and has been for decades. Reliable, less expensive than disks and available in large-scale robotic systems that store petabytes. All good then, but where now?

The latest wrinkle is barium ferrite. Fujifilm and IBM have partnered to demonstrate its advantages, which include densities up to 35TB per cartridge and greater reliability due to higher magnetic coercivity than metal particle.

Barium ferrite tape is been used for several years in the very high-end – drives that cost $50,000 or so – but Fujifilm has brought it to the lower-cost LTO. With the new formulation and 19nm particle sizes Fujifilm believes they'll keep LTO competitive for years to come.

Optical disc
But the optical disc people aren't standing still. Despite the decline in DVD drive sales in personal computers Panasonic believes there is a long-term future for optical drives at much higher capacities.

How high? Try 300 GB.

That certainly falls well short of maybe 35 TB on a single tape cartridge but Panasonic has shown an optical disc RAID that combines a dozen optical disks into a single virtual disk. The three layer, dual-sided Blu-ray technology claims a media life of 50 years as opposed to 30 years for the barium ferrite tape.

Be skeptical of both numbers but the optical folks appear to have an advantage in longevity. And while 12 300 GB disks is less capacity than a 4TB magnetic drive, many archive applications do not need the capacities of high-end tape and benefit by the random-access capability of disc.

The Storage Bits take
Archiving is becoming more important as the amount of data we generate grows. Our digital world needs long life archive storage.

Who will win? The long-term issue is investment, which means expected profitability.

For tape its stronghold is the very high-end market where petabytes of rarely-accessed data is stored for legal or commercial reasons. Those applications justify costly drives and exotic new tape/head combinations, as well as the robotics needed for thousands of cartridges. The economics of learning curves then make it feasible to bring these technologies to a broader market.

Optical's strength springs from the opposite end of the market: consumers. With billions of CDs and DVDs produced the optical drive market is secure for decades to come, even though optical drive and media production is declining. 4K home video and America's Third World network infrastructure (look out Estonia!) require mass production of high-capacity optical drives.

The archive battleground is the enterprise. Good news for companies who need to archive but want competitive choices to reduce costs.

Comments welcome, as always. Where do you think the crossover is between a $2000 tape drive with $80 10TB  cartridges and a $100 optical disc burner with $3 300GB media? Vendors are dying to know!

Topics: Storage, Big Data, Hardware, IBM

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  • How long does it take to write 300GB?

    I think that's the question for consumers and small businesses. For them you wouldn't be looking at a 5-SSD RAID system with Thunderbolt connections, 32GB RAM and 8-core CPU's. How long would it take to back up 300GB from a single SATA III drive on a system with maybe 8GB and one quad-core running Windows Server 2008 or 2012 or a home system with 6GB running Win 7 Home or Win 8.1 Home or Pro?
  • Short Answer

    I see both being used. Tape is better for medium and large companies who need a reliable backup of large amounts of data. Disks are probably more convenient for consumers who have less data which could completely fit on maybe 3 - 5 disks.
  • Neither.....

    In all reality, neither should be the choice for most businesses. Here are some of the reasons:
    1. Both rely on someone to change the physical media out. If someone forgets to do so, then all of the backups are essentially worthless.
    2. You have to figure out how to accomplish offisite backups
    3. Both can easily fail. Tapes break, Optical media can get scratched.
    4. Incremental backups are a lot more difficult than with other choices.

    Here are some alternatives:
    1. External hard drives and a decent backup software program are incredibly affordable, but this still has the first two issues above, at least to some extent.
    2. Cloud Storage, yes the initial backup takes a while, although some get around this by allowing you to send them a hard drive (which they return to you) for the initial backup. The added advantage is that these offer incremental backups. The disadvantage is that if your internet connection goes down or the company shuts down, you can no longer access your data.
    3. Hybrid solution, basically this amounts to a local device that backs up your data, which then uploads to the cloud. This means you automatically have an offsite and onsite backup of all of your data. You can also set retention policies for both onsite and cloud backups separately on many of these services.

    The other downside to numbers 2 & 3 is you do have a monthly fee, but think how much better that is than relying on one or two people to change out media and mailing stuff offsite on a nightly or weekly basis and where do you send it?
    • Tapes breaking?

      "Tapes break"

      It's been 25 years since I've seen that happen.

      "The disadvantage is that if your internet connection goes down or the company shuts down"

      Those are pretty big disadvantages.
      Media Whore
  • 10TB on a single tape is absurd.

    Many tape drives running in parallel are needed to get sufficient throughput to do full backups of huge databases.
    Media Whore
  • Removable hard drives

    I'm way under qualified to add value here, but I support many small and mid-size businesses. To meet larger data backup needs and shorter (after hours) backup windows, I've been installing RDX removable drive cartridge system (Tandberg, Quantum, HP - USB 3.0-based drive unit, SATA and iSCSI available) and compatible backup software (Acronis, ARCserve, Backup Exec) to replace tape-based backup systems. Hard drive cartridges are much faster, more durable, reliable backup media, with 160GB up to 2TB capacities. Still, bigger problem is getting customers to rotate media and offsite store backups; hard discipline to establish. Tandberg offers an 8-bay (2U) drive storage library for enterprise needs. Worth considering.
  • Depends on where you sit...

    In the SP/mB [sole proprietorship/micro business ] world, removable hard drive backup is best, because it's probably files that will get regular access.

    In the SMB [small and medium size business] world, optical drive backup works, the files get accessed occasionally, but HIPPA, SOX, and other Gov't acronyms are necessary facts of life here.

    In the LB/MNE [large and multinational enterprises] world, tape backup works, these files are stored away and essentially forgotten. If necessary, can be restored to other media offsite and FTP'd into the cloud or physical delivery to incorporate into network.