Who killed magnetic disks?

Who killed magnetic disks?

Posted on Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Just last week this blog warned how magnetic tape storage systems may become redundant when the new GDPR legislation comes into force in Europe. But as has been the case so often in the past, the reports about the death of tape may have been greatly exaggerated.

Why? Because a new round of enhancements by IBM have just smashed the previous data storage record.

The 330TB cartridge

Working alongside Sony, IBM has announced a prototype disk cartridge capable of storing 300TB. Using a technology called “sputtering”, data is written onto several different layers on the tape.

This new proof-of-concept tape represents a 2800% increase in capacity over commercially available cartridges.

Is disk about to die?

Magnetic spinning disks on the other hand can’t even come close in terms of capacity. Even with the upcoming HAMR technologies, disks will hit a new per-unit maximum of 20TB in the next two to three years.

At the same time, flash storage is accelerating with 128TB models already entering production. Factor in the reduced cost of running flash (lower energy consumption, less cooling required), and it would appear that the future of storage does not include magnetic disks. Especially as the price differential between the two technologies continues to fall.

A three-technology infrastructure?

Despite the capacity benefits of tape, read and write speeds cannot keep up with the demands of your business. Tape is only really suitable for archiving purposes. But the current cost of flash storage means that you cannot yet afford to deploy it for every application.

As things stand, magnetic disk offers a valuable intermediary layer between mission-critical applications and archive storage. Less frequently accessed data can be written to spinning disk where performance is not paramount, but reading is a lot easier (and quicker) than queuing up tapes.

This intermediary layer is also relatively easy to procure. As you replace post-warranty assets with new, all-flash arrays, the redundant hardware can be used to provide intermediary capacity.

Tape outlives disk

Predicting the future of IT storage accurately has always been notoriously difficult. The end of tape has been prophesied for many years, and the irony is that tape may be about to outlast magnetic disk!

To learn more about building an intermediate storage layer using your post-warranty disk arrays, please get in touch.

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