Tale of the tape: the lowest-cost storage media

IBM remains the number one global supplier of tape data storage solutions according to International Data Corporation (IDC), one of the leading storage analyst firms. In the IDC Custom Tape Report 2016 H2 (March 2017), research showed that between 2015 and 2016, IBM increased its tape revenue share from 36 percent to 43 percent, while IBM’s three closest tape competitors all lost ground.[1]

Tape Storage“Tape continues to be the lowest-cost storage media in the industry,” notes Jeff Barber, Vice President Offering Management, IBM Storage.  “It makes tremendous economic sense in environments characterized by petabytes moving to exabytes.  It’s not a surprise that large-scale cloud services providers and global enterprises have embraced tape as a means to store large volumes of data at an affordable price.”

Being the number one tape vendor is not a trivial thing, as tape continues to deliver strong value to users across the globe:

  • Tape continues to be used by the majority of the world’s large organizations.[2]
  • Tape ships more capacity than external hard disks.[2]
  • Tape remains significantly less expensive than hard disk storage.[3]
  • Tape is ideal for production IT environments — to lower costs through new software-defined storage and flash-based architectures.

In past decades, many storage industry analysts predicted the demise of tape-based data storage, but the opposite has come true. Storage industry analyst Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) notes:

Contrary to misconceptions that tape is an unreliable, slow, and antiquated storage technology, ESG is pleased to report that LTO tape is thriving and has a bright future in organizations of all sizes, including some of the largest public cloud providers on the planet.”[4]

Tape provides the best data storage options to address a number of common enterprise IT challenges or “pain points”:

  • Backup and disaster recovery (DR) solutions are considered both mandatory and expensive in today’s business world. Tape can significantly lower backup and DR solution costs.
  • Data volumes are increasing explosively while IT budgets remain essentially flat. The relatively low cost and high capacity of tape storage provides one of the most effective solutions to solve this challenge.

Tape StorageAdvantages like these have enabled tape to become a new-old favorite of data storage in the 21st century.  For more information about our commitment to data on tape see our August 2, 2017 press release around our new record for magnetic tape storage.

Many IT industry observers believe that no current storage technology is more cost-effective, reliable, or energy-efficient for long-term data retention than tape, and it continues to play a key role for organizations across the globe.

Why has IBM remained the number one tape vendor? Decades of success in the tape storage marketplace and incessant cycles of innovation. For our tape storage clients and business partners, IBM’s commitment and approach to tape provides a number of advantages:

  • Component optimization. Deeply integrating and optimizing all components in tape systems results in lower risk of data loss, higher reliability, greater system stability, prolonged media life and optimal performance.
  • One hand to shake. Because IBM can supply the complete tape solution, including drives, automation, media, and software, customers benefit from a vendor that can work the solution end-to-end for more efficient problem resolution.
  • Stringent quality control. Persistent routine testing of media and other tape system components increases the reliability and durability of IBM tape products – only IBM-brand tape media are tested against all IBM drive and library configurations.
  • Stronger product warranty. IBM and our tape vendors guarantee the high quality of IBM tape products.
  • Confidence. The IBM history with tape spans nearly 65 years; our customers can have confidence in our experience and tape storage roadmap, while our knowledge base and media skills continue to grow.

Tape StorageFinally, IBM innovation and enhancements have not been limited to tape technology and components themselves; we’ve also made significant improvements to our market-leading IBM Spectrum Storage family that closely integrate with and help enable effective tape-based solutions. In particular, IBM Spectrum Archive now offers innovations that enable tape to fill many of the same roles in enterprise data centers that were once the exclusive domain of disk storage.

We view IBM as different from other tape providers and uniquely positioned in the industry. With advantages like these, it’s no wonder IBM has remained the number one tape supplier and is poised – like tape data storage itself – to remain in the lead.

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[1] IDC Branded Tape Report 2016 H2

[2] Infostor: Ten reasons tape is better than disk (http://www.infostor.com/backup-and_recovery/tape/10-reasons-tape-storage-is-better-than-disk.html)

[3] LTO.org BlogBytes: Tape and Disk Storage: What do They Really Cost?, March 3, 2017


[4] ESG: Analyzing the Economic Value of LTO Tape for Long-term Data Retention, February 2016 (http://www.lto.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/ESG-WP-LTO-EVV-Feb_2016.pdf)