Chris Mellor wrote an article a few months ago that basically predicted the death of tape by 2014. The basis of the article and the prediction was an executive summary of a market analysis report from the Santa Clara Consulting Group, (SCCG), “the leading source of market information relating to the removable data storage industry for more than 25 years,” even though I’ve never heard of them until this article. (Am I alone here?) The report mentioned that tape revenues were down 25% in 2009, and Chris extrapolated that if this were to continue, the tape business would cease to exist by 2014. I was going to write a blog post about that back then, but forgot. Pierre Dorian wrote an article about the future of backup tape that also sourced this study so I was reminded that I wanted to take a look at the numbers in this report and see if I can make sense of them.
Other bloggers (and comments on Chris’ original article) have suggested that you’ve got to take in other factors, mainly the global recession. So I thought I’d look at tape’s close cousin – disk. This IDC report says that external disk revenue decreased by 10.2% in 2009, and overall disk revenue decreased by 11.9%. What would this mean to the tape business? Fewer disks means fewer to back up, right? So it would seem that you could write off about half of the 25% drop as being due to the effects of the recession on the overall storage business.
Let’s also consider the effect of the increases in tape size we’ve had over the last few years. You can now by an LTO-4 tape for about the price of an LTO-3 tape a few years ago, and it stores twice as much data. Please note that the report shows that LTO is the dominant media type, and LTO-4 is the dominant version of LTO. It also mentions that LTO-5 has barely taken off. When it does, another drop in capacity will result in a drop in media revenue as people store more and more data on fewer and fewer tapes. This will, of course, be countered by more data to be backed up, But I think this increase in media capacity could easily be blamed for the other half of that 25% drop.
If I’m right, and half of the 25% drop came from the recession and the other half came from increased media capacities, then basically that means that people really haven’t decreased the amount of data they’re putting on tape. They may be doing as best as they can to better utilize what they have, but to me, these numbers don’t seem to demonstrate the massive move from tape to disk that everyone seems to think is going on.
Yes, more people are backing up to disk than ever before — but they also seem to be keeping a copy on tape.
this blog post!
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Written by W. Curtis Preston (@wcpreston). For those of you unfamiliar with my work, I've specialized in backup & recovery since 1993. I've written the O'Reilly books on backup and have worked with a number of native and commercial tools. I am now Chief Technical Evangelist at Druva, the leading provider of cloud-based data protection and data management tools for endpoints, infrastructure, and cloud applications. These posts reflect my own opinion and are not necessarily the opinion of my employer.