Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc.

"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated"

1/12/2023 by Mike Zwolski


That’s a famous quote from Mark Twain.

A less familiar quote, but one that has now authoritatively also been attributed to Mark Twain, goes as follows: “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”

Both quotes apply to a topic near and dear to my heart: tape.

I recently had a drink with a young man, a friend of my son’s, after a soccer game. I told him I worked with tape, and he asked if I meant Scotch tape. Damn kids don’t know what they don’t know!

But the point is, he isn’t alone. Many customers, misguided by a raft of “brilliant” consultants and some manufacturers, bought into the line of thinking that tape is passé. In fact, “Tape is Dead” was a headline from a large PC software company in the '90s. 

That same company recently selected tape as their technology of choice for low activity data. They now publicly say that tape has a long and viable future. Hmmm…

Let’s look at how the nasty myth that tape is dead got started. (By the way, this is just Part One of my blog post about the everlasting fable that tape is going away. Keep your eyes open for Part Two.)

Data sits in memory, or on a spinning disk, or on a tape cartridge. Memory (aka Flash) used to be too expensive for anything but servers. So active data sat on disk and inactive data sat on tape.

But as the price for memory has fallen, it has become the de facto place to store active data.

Folks assumed that disk would then squeeze tape out of existence for less active data. But tape had other plans. Tape holds a massive amount of data, but on a square inch basis, doesn’t hold near as much as a disk drive does. So what?

So, over time, ongoing increases in the density is what drives benefits in price/performance. As disk has lost the ability to keep rapidly increasing capacity, its price value has been badly hurt.

Tape has a decades-long capacity roadmap that scientists can see today. That means its price can keep dropping and still be profitable to manufacture.

The end result is that disk is what is being squeezed out of the data storage picture.

Active data will sit on memory, and inactive data on tape. Disk will go the way of optical. Slowly, but surely.

Watch for Part Two, coming soon! And if you want to talk about the role tape could be playing in your enterprise, just contact us.

About the author

Michael Zwolski is a zSystems and Storage Solution Advisor with LRS IT Solutions. With more than 30 years of experience supporting Fortune 100 IBM customers in the areas of mainframe and enterprise storage, Michael is skilled at interfacing between technical and business resources. His knowledge of IBM storage solutions including DS8000, FlashSystem, SVC, and TS7000 and others make him a valuable asset on storage projects.