As you may have noticed, I have a great deal of disrespect for “tape is dead” stories. To be blunt, I think they’re about as plausible as theories that the moon landing was faked.
So I thought I might list the criteria I think will have to happen in order for tape to die:
- SSD will need to offer the same capacity, shelf-life and price as equivalent storage tape.
There’s been a lot of talk lately of MAIDs – Massive Arrays of Idle Disks – being the successor/killer to tape, on the premise that such arrays would allow large amounts of either snapshotted or deduplicated data to be kept online, replicated into multiple locations, and otherwise in a night-perfect nearline state.
This isn’t the way of the future. Like VTL, MAIDs are a stop-gap measure that will fulfill specific issues to do with tape, but not replace tape. Like VTLs, if the building is burning down you can’t rush into the computer room, grab the MAID and run out like you can with a handful of tapes. Equally similarly to VTLs and disk backup units, it’s entirely conceivable of a targetted virus/trojan (or even a mistake) wiping out the content of a MAID.
No, we won’t get to the point where tape can “die” until such time as there is a high speed, safe, and comparatively cheap removable format/media that offers the same level of true offline protection.
The trouble with this is simple – it’s a constantly moving goalpost. Restricting ourselves to just LTO for the purposes of this discussion, it’s conceivable that SSDs might, in a few years, catch up with LTO-4; however, with LTO-5 due out “soon”, and LTO-6 on the roadmap, SSDs don’t need to catch up with a static format, they need to catch up with a format that is continuing to improve and expand, both in speed and capacity.
So perhaps, instead of being so narrow as to suggest that tape might die when SSDs catch up, it might be more accurate to suggest that tape may have a chance of being replaced when some new technology evolves with sufficient density, price-point, performance and portability that it makes like-for-like replacement possible.
There are “old timers” in the computer industry who can tell me stories of punch card systems and valve computers. I’m a “medium timer” so to speak in that I can tell stories to more youthful people in computing about working with printer-terminals, programming in RPG and reel-to-reel tape. So, do I envisage in 10-20 years time trying to explain what “tape” was to people just starting in the industry?