Storage Investigate

Tape Success: The Digital Curator for the Information Age (Horison)

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Executive Summary

Since the first successful drive first appeared in 1952, the magnetic tape industry continues to evolve. Markets are shifting as disk slowly encroaches on tape's traditional backup/recovery market while tape is positioning itself to address the exploding tier 3 applications such as fixed content, compliance and archive. In recent years tape has been relegated to the mainframe and the middle to high end of the SMB (Small to Medium Business) markets with decreasing penetration below this level due to availability of small diameter disk drives and flash memory alternatives.

StorageTek, acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2005 and again when Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010, was clearly an innovator and what set StorageTek apart were its market leading tape innovations. StorageTek introduced the Nearline automated tape library in 1988 using a new, circular robotic architecture for the first time. This bold move essentially saved the company as StorageTek found many new applications for tape beyond traditional backup and recovery.

In 1998, IBM and StorageTek popularized the first Integrated VTL (Virtual Tape Library) solutions bringing a new, improved economic model to the mainframe tape industry. The Nearline library was the de-facto standard library for 15 years and many are still in operation today. Tape was seldom seen as an innovative technology, but these innovations often proved the exception to that rule and StorageTek and IBM consistently lead the industry in tape innovation.

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