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Why are tape drives not scaling with hard disks?

Anonymous Coward writes | more than 6 years ago

Data Storage 4

An anonymous reader writes "Every 3-6 months, we see an announcement about something adding to hard disk storage. However, tape drives don't seem to be improving on anywhere near the scale of hard disks.

Why is this? Both are magnetic media, and with a tape drive, a manufacturer has far more space to put data on than the platters of a hard disk, and still leave plenty of space for error correction data. Tape drives also don't spin nearly as fast as hard disks, so tolerances involved can be less."

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4 comments

Disk-to-disk is so much cheaper and more reliable. (1)

skidv (656766) | more than 6 years ago | (#20532961)

As the cost of disk space plummets, the need for tape is reduced. There's a million ways to perform disk-to-disk [slashdot.org] backups with snapshots, everything from open source solutions to traditional vendors.

Here's why... (1)

knorthern knight (513660) | more than 6 years ago | (#20534121)

The main reason is USB and Firewire connections and portable external hard drives. A tape drive typically requires a connection inside the computer. I remember older ones that plugged into the floppy drive connector inside your computer. Installing the hardware was a pain. And so was installing the software. And if you want to restore to another machine, you have to buy another tapedrive, and install the hardware and software on the other machine. Because you're talking weirdo drivers, you're stuck with one OS. And you'd have to pay to upgrade the tapedrive software each time you upgrade the OS on each machine. And that's just upgrading the same basic OS. It was almost impossible to find a program with versions for multiple different OS.

    Consider the following scenario...
    - you have 5 computers, namely 1 Windows Vista, 1 Windows XP, 1 Windows 2000, 1 linux, and 1 BSD
    - so you go out and pay for ***FIVE TAPE DRIVES*** (ouch) and ***FIVE VERSIONS OF THE TAPEDRIVE SOFTWARE*** (ouch)
    - that's assuming you can find a tape-backup-and-restore vendor with such multiplatform support
    - *PRAY* that your tape-backup vendor doesn't go under

    Compare that with a USB drive formatted as FAT32. Just about all computers made this century have USB ports. Hook up a 500GB external USB drive to any one machine, and restore to any other machine. No extra hardware or software to install. Much cheaper.

    And remember that hardrives are random-access devices, while tapedrives are sequential-access devices. Let's say that you accidently delete a file on your PC. Plug in the 500 gig backup drive, and copy the file off it in a few seconds. Plug the 500 gig tape into the tapedrive and take a lunch break while the tape winds through (on average) 250 gigs before running across the file you want.

    And you can rest assured that next year's WIndows/Linux/BSD will be able to read the USB drive.

Re:Here's why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20535169)

There are some USB and firewire tape drives, and PLENTY of external SCSI tape drives.

Since tape drives mostly target enterprise, most are cross platform. There are plenty of tape backup applications that are cross-platform--both proprietary and free/open source.

- you have 5 computers, namely 1 Windows Vista, 1 Windows XP, 1 Windows 2000, 1 linux, and 1 BSD
        - so you go out and pay for ***FIVE TAPE DRIVES*** (ouch) and ***FIVE VERSIONS OF THE TAPEDRIVE SOFTWARE*** (ouch)
Really? I'd just do network backups to a single tape drive. I'd personally use free/open source AMANDA to do this, but there are other options.

- *PRAY* that your tape-backup vendor doesn't go under

There are a small number of standard tape formats & they're backed by large companies. If you're worried about software, go free/open source.

Proximity of magnetic elements (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#20536683)

Look at how tape is stored. Layers of tape are wrapped around a spindle. One magnetic layer is touching the next. This is one of the big reasons why tapes degrade over time. Beyond a certain density, it becomes very hard to make a tape that will store data without losing it the first time it's wrapped around the spindle. Also, don't forget that tapes have to be exposed to oxygen (hard drive platters don't) and tolerate quite variable distances to the read/write head. These add up to some serious engineering problems, and the size of the tape market adds up to a much smaller R&D investment.
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