In my previous article, David Hodgson, SVP at CA Technologies, Inc., described how the mainframe has been forced to change by the cloud revolution. Even though the cloud is not actually killing off the
mainframe, Hodgson says it could mean the end of another monster from the past: the tape robot.

One of the mainframe areas seeing big changes is
mainframe storage. CA has started
supplying technology to transfer mainframe storage to the cloud. First up is
its partnership with Amazon and Riverbed and a new product called CA Cloud Storage, which provides mainframe owners with a cloud storage gateway.

Tape, the original
mainframe storage medium

Mainframes are used by big organizations with a need to
store a lot of data for a long time. In my interview with Hodgson, he gave an example of a
pharmaceutical company. “In the drug industry they have to keep records and
data for–it depends on the regulations, what sort of drug it is–for
15, 75, or 100 years. Imagine having to keep data around
for 100 years.”

The old way of archiving petabytes of data for many years was
to use tapes. Thousands of tapes. Tapes that require silos for storage and
robots to swap them between the library and the tape drives. Hodgson said, “Tapes are incredibly old
technology. They’ve been around since the ’60s. They haven’t changed much at
all, except the density.”

Hodgson described some of the problems with tape storage. “Once you’ve written data to physical tapes, there are all sorts of security problems
such as data loss. The thing can just deteriorate. The older they are, the more
likely they are to break.”

Tape and disk

Several years ago CA created a product called Vtape, a storage virtualization layer that allows mainframe owners to replace tape
with disk. Hodgson said, “The idea there was applications that would write to
tape storage could now write to virtualized tape. The applications don’t know
that’s what’s happening.”

Hodgson described why this did not mean the end of the tape
robot. “On a mainframe, disk storage is expensive. People were only going to
virtualize the tapes that were important to them and that were active. They
were not going to virtualize all of their archive tapes.”

Tape, disk, and cloud
storage

Hodgson said CA Cloud Storage solves the expense of
replacing archive tapes. “The basic value proposition of this is cost
reduction, which is great because that’s what people want to hear.” 

Hodgson
thinks using cloud storage is a game changer. “It’s a natural move for people
who have mainframes. They will have tapes, and applications that write to tape.
This is an application they can use without changing any of the infrastructure.
All they have to do is decide to use a new class of storage, which is one of
the Amazon classes.”

Tape, disk, cloud, and
more cloud

Hodgson does not believe mainframes are going away any time
soon. “The majority of the companies with mainframes are so dependent on them,
and they are so mission critical, they are not likely to be moving off them.” CA
intends to expand the use of cloud storage by their products. “It’s more about ‘how do you keep the mainframe relevant in the cloud environment?’ This whole
cloud storage offering is key to that direction.”

CA Cloud Storage will expand its use of cloud storage from
another way of virtualizing tapes to an entire storage virtualization layer.
Hodgson used DB2 backup as an example. “You can extend that layer so the people
who are writing to the disk are now writing to the cloud. We already have
products that do things like enable you to do, say, large backups of data to
places like DB2. What we are thinking is people might like to back up directly
to the cloud. We can interface our DB2 backup product with this virtualization
layer.”

Hodgson said CA is looking for other partners in other
geographies. “Is Amazon the right partner, or would a local partner be more
effective? For instance, Amazon is big in Japan, but maybe the local businesses
there would rather use Fujitsu as a partner. The big financial companies–the
types that have mainframes–will be subject to national and government regulations,
where data can’t go out the country.”

No more tape

Hodgson believes that “eventually people will eliminate all
the robot infrastructure they’ve got. It’s a saving in floor space, and it’s
another mechanical thing that gets eliminated.”

Large organizations won’t be killing off their tape robot
any time soon. “Realistically, it will take several years to eliminate their
robot tape management device, because they’d have to go through a cycle of
replicating all their tapes into cloud storage and testing that retrieval. It’s
not something that you’re going to implement in a couple of months. This is
going to be a long-term project to cycle through all the thousands of tapes you
might have and eliminate them.”

There’s plenty of time to say goodbye to the tape silo in
the computer room, but the rise of cloud storage does mean the end is coming.