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Spectra Logic Backup and Archive Blog


Why Tape Rolls On: Reliability

Reliability: (adv.) the extent to which an experiment, test, or measuring procedure yields the same results on repeated trials.  Dependable.  Sure.  Trustworthy.  (From our friends at Merriam-Webster). And there’s a picture of tape next to the definition.  Ok, so maybe the picture statement was a stretch, but associating the definition of reliability with tape definitely is not.

Anybody who’s been in the storage industry for more than 30 minutes has likely heard the phrase, “tape’s not reliable”.  Certain marketing machines in the technology space propagate that phrase as much as possible – occasionally with bumper stickers.  Those folks have some imagination, but generally register a bit low on the fact meter.

Here are a few things people are saying about the reliability of tape.

Bit Error Rate Favors Tape Reliability Over Disk  - Horison Information Strategies, April 2011

Summary.“Tape drives and tape media now have a higher BER and longer useful life than disk products making them better suited for the long-term data retention requirements demanded by fixed content, compliance and archive applications. For a specific amount of data transmitted, tape now has a marked reliability advantage over disk - a surprise for many.”1

1.“Tape: New Game.  New rules.  Tape re-architects for 21st century data explosion.” Pg. 6. April, 2011. Horison Information Strategies

Tape More Reliable Than Disk for Long Term StorageCurtis Preston, June 2011


“Tape drives:

  1. Write data more reliably than disk
  2. Read it after they've written it to make sure they did (where disks often don't do that)
  3. Have significantly less "bit rot" or "bit flip" than disk drives over time.”2
2.“Tape more reliable than disk for long term storage.” Backup Central blog, June 2, 2011

Tape Drives 700% More Reliable Than 10 Years Ago – Debbie Beach, Sylvatica Consultants, 2009

LTO drives are specified with an impressive mean-time-between-failure rate (MTBF) of 250,000 hours at 100% duty cycle, that’s 700% more than the MTBF of tape technologies created a decade ago.3

3.“The evolving role of tape and disk in the data center.” Pg. 7. 2009, Beech, Debbie; Sylvatica White Paper

One is an accident.  Two is a coincidence.  Three becomes a trend.  The reliability of recording data to tape for storage over the long term is hard to beat.  Could that by why tape roles on?

To learn more about Why Tape Rolls On, see parts 1 through 4 of this series discussing the Security, Green Storage, Speed and Density characteristics of tape.


Spectra Logic Defines Data Integrity Verification; Looks Forward to Tape Summit

A recent Spectra Logic announcement caused quite a stir within the storage industry, from positive analyst and media feedback to customers asking about implementing it. Why the excitement? More organizations are retaining ever-expanding volumes of data and storing it for ever-increasing periods of time to meet their business and compliance objectives. And they want to know without a doubt their data will be there when needed.  Spectra’s BlueScale® Data Integrity Verification provides organizations the utmost confidence their backup and archive data will be readily available when needed, regardless of how long it has been stored. Spectra’s offering is “data archive insurance”, the first of its kind in the market, unmatched in both its comprehensiveness and its flexibility.  And, importantly, it is available across our entire line of T-Series tape libraries at no additional cost to users.  

How did we get here? Customer satisfaction and promoting confidence in backup and archive data has always been at the forefront of everything we do at Spectra. We have been advancing media integrity and data integrity capabilities in our libraries for many years. And our recently announced Data Integrity Verification is the pinnacle of data integrity validation. It builds on our Media Lifecycle Management (MLM), the initial data integrity capabilities we introduced several years ago, and our subsequent data integrity enhancements. MLM checks more than 30 health points on individual cartridges and proactively notifies the administrator when it is time to retire tape media and replace them with new tapes, mitigating data corruption and loss. Data Integrity Verification is compatible with any media from any LTO supplier, and it gives customers the flexibility to use either dedicated or shared library resources to verify data, which translates into faster, more efficient verification checks. Better yet, it seamlessly integrates into existing environments and operates as a background library-managed process with no impact to application software configurations.  

How does Spectra's Data Integrity Verification work? It proactively performs three levels of fully automated validation:

  • PreScan - Checks newly imported tapes to ensure they are ready to use: for example, in good health, generationally compatible and not write-protected.
  • QuickScan - Quickly and immediately verifies the backup and archive data was successfully written to tape with a rapid single pass from the beginning of the tape to the end of the first track.  Along with PostScan, rapid or gradual media degradation is tracked in the libraryand reported to users.
  • PostScan - Automatically verifies the physical tape cartridge and the integrity of all of the data stored upon it for the duration the data is retained. As with PreScan and QuickScan, the PostScan process is performed by the library and is independent of the backup application normally used to read and write data to the tape.

The buzz surrounding our recent announcement tells us we're not the only ones taking another look at tape. “Customers will be thrilled that their system will upgraded to take advantage of Data Integrity Verification’s features at no cost,” said David Hill, principal, Mesabi Group. “Most users will run both Spectra’s PreScan and QuickScan to validate that the tape is in good condition and that data has been properly written to and can be read back from tape. QuickScan’s single pass data verification check takes less than one minute to complete, an impressive time frame. The free upgrade is a fantastic customer-friendly move by Spectra Logic, which is one of the few remaining vendors with a strong tape offering.”

DIV is just one example of how tape advancements are securing tape’s growing role in the data center – from data archiving to cloud storage.  See a recent blog post from Storage Switzerland analyst George Crump. “A funny thing happened to tape on the way to its funeral. It had the audacity to not cooperate with the disk vendors and die. In fact, tape storage has recently shown more than just signs of life, it’s showing signs of growth. The question about tape has changed from “how long will it be around?” to “how else can we leverage it?” What is causing this change? It’s the same thing that saved Apple, innovation.”

And the industry is watching. Case in point, this week, more than ten vendors that you may typically consider foes are collaborating at Tape Summit 2011 (Learn more at   Like Data Integrity Verification, this event is a first of its kind, and is designed to bring the major industry players together to report on the state of tape and its future. Tape Summit will be held April 13-15 in Las Vegas. Follow the event on Twitter: hashtag, #tapesummit.

2011 is an exciting time for tape and Spectra is leading tape technology’s innovations while helping customers understand the potential of these extremely efficient, effective storage solutions.