What do Amazon, Microsoft, Meta and IBM have in common? Tape storage


The annual Fujifilm Recording Media USA (FRMA) conference in San Diego in late June 2022 brought together many of the biggest names in cloud computing and storage. What did they all have in common? Heavy use of tape storage and tape archiving.

“Adding disks to cope with the data explosion makes short-term sense, but tape is needed at a strategic level because of the sheer volume of data that must be moved, stored, and archived securely and cost-effectively” , said Rich Gadomski. , Tape Evangelist at FRMA, who hosted the event.

Speakers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Meta (Facebook), IBM and more have touted the benefits of archiving large amounts of data to tape.

All but AWS have come out openly in favor of tape as the most reliable, cost-effective, secure, and durable way to archive data. AWS hasn’t publicly commented on the media they use for data storage, but it’s one of the industry’s worst-kept secrets that they use A LOT of tape.

Others have been more open. “Tape remains the most cost-effective storage medium,” said Nikhil Jain, principal product manager for Microsoft Azure Storage.

Qingzhi Peng, Meta’s Technical Sourcing Manager, noted that his company operates a large tape archive storage team. “Hard disk drive (HDD) technology is like a sprinter, and tape is more like a marathon runner,” Peng said. “We use tape in the cold data tier, flash in the hot tier, and hard drive and flash in the hot tier.”

Related: LTO-9 Tape Format Expected to Increase Tape Utilization

The era of zettabytes

Fred Moore, an analyst at Horison Information Strategies, gave a detailed look at how tape fits into the zettabyte (ZB) era, which began around 2016. By 2025, he said , approximately 11.7 ZB will be stored in organizational systems.

Much more data will be created, but most of it is transient. Moore gave the context of a ZB – the storage equivalent of 7.5 trillion MP3 songs, or 125 million years worth of one-hour TV shows.

“Object storage is going to be the primary mode of archival storage in the future,” Moore said. “Files don’t disappear, but they can’t evolve properly.”

Moore also commented on the large number of data centers operated by hyperscalers. There are over 600 data centers around the world larger than 100,000 square feet. The largest is 10 million square feet and they all store large amounts of data.

“It’s these hyperscalers that are pushing the boundaries of computing and increasing their bandwidth utilization,” Moore said. “Tape storage is necessary to enable growth and control infrastructure costs.”

Also, he recommended the tape to fight against cybercrime. The air gap (no network connection) provided by tape cartridges plays a central role in any cybersecurity ecosystem, he added.

Organizations, Moore said, should keep three copies of data on two different types of media, with an offsite copy in the cloud or a vault, as well as a copy with air space. The latter would primarily be tape cartridges, which require no electronic connection when stored.

“Tape has the lowest acquisition price per TB and lowest total cost of ownership while using 85% less power than hard drives,” Moore said. “Tape scales without increasing power consumption, while HDDs increase capacity by adding disks and increasing power consumption.”

Related: How tape backup can prevent ransomware

DNA storage

On the final morning of the show, Steffen Hellmold, senior vice president of business development for DNA data storage at Twist Bioscience, revealed an upcoming form of storage: synthetic DNA.

The basic concept is that human DNA is a very efficient storage mechanism for DNA data. Using this same model, synthetic DNA can be used to store data for long term information retention – very long term according to Helmond.

“Magnetic storage scaling is slowing and supply can’t keep up with demand,” he said. “DNA data storage is orders of magnitude denser.”

But this storage medium is still far from prime time. Relatively small amounts of storage have been created using synthetic DNA. It may take several years for this technology to mature.

Discover the best BI data storage solutions on TechnologyAdvice: 5 Best Data Storage Solutions for BI


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