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IBM Diamondback Tape Library: Storage for the Future

In an age when data capacity is growing rapidly, the need for smart, sustainable, resilient storage solutions is growing just as quickly.

Enter: IBM Diamondback Tape Storage. Released in October 2022, Diamondback is a next-generation, sustainable, ultra-high-density storage solution designed to protect against the constant threat of ransomware and data breaches in hybrid cloud environments.

“I’m always excited about modernization efforts,” says Shawn Brume, IBM tape evangelist and strategist. “And this is truly modern.” With its superior serviceability, energy efficiency and sustainability, IBM Diamondback Tape Storage enables companies of all sizes to get more data in a smaller footprint than ever before.

The Need for Tape Storage

Data is growing exponentially in every industry, and not just for large businesses. For small mom-and-pop companies, data is growing 12% per year, according to Brume. For hyperscalers—large companies that provide cloud, networking and internet services at scale through Internet as a Service (IaaS)—that figure is closer to 35% per year. However, Brume says that between 40% and 80% of stored data is never used. All of that data has to go somewhere, and some companies use technology that consumes energy 24 hours a day to store it—racking up operating costs and energy bills.

“Data value comes from being able to monetize it, and you can’t monetize data if it costs too much to keep,” mentions Brume. With tape storage, unused data can be stored more efficiently. In fact, if a company moves 80% of its data from spinning HDD storage to tape, it could use 20x less energy. Tape storage is denser and less expensive than other methods.

The Benefits of Diamondback

IBM Diamondback Tape Storage in particular helps businesses get more value from their data thanks to a few key differentiators: usability and serviceability, density, and resilience.

First, Diamondback is fully self-serviceable and installs in less than 30 minutes—and it can be expanded in a similar time frame. Plus, thanks to QR codes that instantly route users to videos that help them solve common problems, companies don’t need staff with a wide array of technical expertise to maintain their libraries. “It’s exciting to know I can fix almost anything in this library in less than two minutes,” says Brume.

In terms of density, Diamondback can store about 1.6x more than its nearest competitor. With that kind of density, companies can avoid disposing of valuable historical data or incurring expensive operating costs to store it.

Diamondback Tape also uses physical air-gapping to protect users’ data and increase resilience against potential cyberattacks. With a physical air gap, a copy of users’ data is separated from other networks or devices, making it impossible for hackers to access that data remotely.

Overturning Misconceptions: Tape Storage Is Modern Storage

“Tape is frequently misconceived as a technology that went away,” says Brume. “But it’s a relevant technology for the future.”

Case in point: Hyperscalers are adopting massive amounts of tape. The low operational costs associated with tape storage offer a business benefit that’s two-fold: Businesses spend less to store more data and, as a result, customers don’t have to deal with rising annual fees—reducing the risk that they’ll turn to another service provider. “The fact that hyperscalers are implementing tape just demonstrates that it can’t be old, because they don’t do anything that’s old,” notes Brume. “That’s a huge jump for tape.”

In addition to its cost-effectiveness, tape is relevant to modern sustainability efforts. Of course, storing data on tape consumes less energy, but having access to decades-worth of data also helps businesses make informed decisions about sustainability. For example: choosing which company to partner with based on historical CO2 emissions data. “Sustainability is evolving, and now, companies have the ability to take action appropriately,” Brume adds.

“The second big misconception is that tape is slow,” says Brume. “But when it comes down to it, tape is quite fast.” In fact, it’s 400 Mbps per drive, which is faster than HDD storage. What’s more, Brume adds, “We’ve demonstrated technologies that are ten generations forward that could store half a petabyte per cartridge.” Compare that to HDD, which is forecasted to have a capacity of 30 TB in the next four to five years.

The Future of Tape Technology

Brume says tape storage may also be an important part of future automation efforts. Take, for example, self-driving cars. “That industry is focused on the ability to go back and determine faults—and benefits—in code,” he says. With access to a large repository of data, companies can use AI engines to review historical conditions like temperature, vehicle speed and more to determine how accidents happen—and how to avoid them. Brume notes, “The collection of data gives you so many clues on what people are going to do.”

As technology accelerates, data volume grows, along with the need to store it. As a result, says Brume, “Companies start looking for new technologies, and the ‘new technology’ they found is tape.”