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ESG Research Highlights 2020 Tape Landscape

Research Objectives

Tape is back on the forefront with new use cases and possibilities. The need for unlimited and cost-conscious storage for long-term retention has never been stronger, in particular for “cold” layers of storage in public and private clouds. Hardware, software, and product usability evolutions make tape solutions an attractive option for long-term archiving, ransomware remediation, and massive storage for media or media-like applications.

In order to gain insight into these trends, ESG surveyed 303 IT professionals at organizations in North America (US and Canada) personally responsible for or familiar with their organization’s data protection environment and strategy, including tape technology. The respondents’ organizations had to be current users of tape technology. This research aimed to understand the current state of enterprise tape deployments, uncover specific use cases (including vertical-specific ones), identify gaps, and highlight future expectations. Special attention will also be paid to cloud use cases such as the usage of tape for long-term retention by hyperscalers, leveraging cloud-like services that use tape as a replacement for on-premises solutions, and migration of tape to cloud.

This study sought to:

  • Understand the existing and emerging technology and business challenges and drivers influencing tape usage and purchasing strategies.
  • Determine the technology requirements organizations have when it comes to tape solutions and evaluate the impact of cloud service providers/hyperscalers.
  • Examine how tape is used and is expected to be used to support data protection and modern archiving.
  • Assess how growing compliance requirements and ransomware are influencing buying decisions and changing tape topologies.

Research Highlights

Media volumes keep growing at an incredible pace, and storage destinations are shifting to cloud.

Organizations produce and accumulate staggering amounts of secondary (i.e., non-production) data, especially when it comes to backups and archives. Among those who include tape in their secondary data storage infrastructure strategy, tape storage serves as the repository for 33% of total backup and archive data on average today.

Tape topologies deliver on throughput, reliability, security, and cost-effectiveness

Tape wins the cost perception battle against public cloud and disk subsystems, with more than four in ten IT professionals rating it as the most cost-effective backup medium. For recoverability, tape is seen as a robust medium on par with public cloud and slightly ahead of disk systems.

Archives create technology challenges as well as opportunities like active archives and intelligent data management.

More than half of respondents indicate their organizations have maximum retention requirements of four to ten years for archive data. Among those organizations that support data archiving activities with tape technology, more than three-quarters currently leverage an active archive solution, and 89% of these respondents support this tiered storage management approach with tape.

Tape shines for compliance and cyber resilience.

Nearly nine in ten organizations classify tape as critical or important in meeting compliance requirements, with more than one-third of respondents stating that tape is the foundation of their data compliance efforts. With cybercrime increasingly widespread and tape allowing for critical capabilities such as air gapping, it makes sense that more than one in five organizations surveyed use tape as their most commonly leveraged mechanism to deal with cyber-attacks.

Looking ahead, the majority of users will continue to invest in tape.

The majority of current tape users expect to continue placing bets on tape with increased future investments. Among those respondents who are either not currently increasing their tape spending or actively planning to decrease it, only 10% believe their organization will completely replace tape within the next year.


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