Oracle attacks tape management with analytics software

StorageTek Tape Analytics provides one screen for managing tapes around the world, easing cloud administration

Tape-storage administrators will be able to get performance information and immediate directions to prevent data loss in new management software, called StorageTek Tape Analytics, that Oracle introduced on Monday.

Facebook probably wouldn't run its newly acquired Instagram service off tape storage, but this unsexy technology is still widely used in enterprises for backup and archiving of critical data. It can cut electricity costs versus hard disk drives that constantly stay on, and tapes holding terabytes of uncompressed information can be shipped overnight, typically a faster solution than sending a huge amount of data over a network, industry analysts say.

The new StorageTek software lets enterprises manage tape systems all over the world through one screen, according to Oracle. It can deliver details about the health of tape drives and media on the company's StorageTek Modular Library System, give warnings when there are problems and recommend actions to prevent data loss, Oracle said.

The software can gather performance information directly from tape libraries rather than cutting into the data path and creating a separate monitoring environment, the company said.

Having one view for all tape storage is ideal for organizations using cloud computing, according to Oracle. In addition, Tape Analytics can scale up to accommodate the growth of an archive for as long as it is in use, keeping historical data in addition to new performance information, according to Oracle.

Robotic equipment has eliminated much of the manual effort of maintaining tape libraries, but the infrastructure doesn't totally run itself, said 451 Group analyst Henry Baltazar. Tapes are still a physical medium that can fail.

"Clearly, if something goes bad, you need to be able to ... figure out what tape sets are bad or which tape sets are at risk, and have those recreated or whatever you need to do," Baltazar said.

Among the steps that need to be carried out and verified is "re-tensioning," similar to tightening an audiocassette to make sure it can advance smoothly, he said.

"Even though tapes are designed to be held for decades, there's still a lot of maintenance that goes into that," Baltazar said. Management software can eliminate some of the administrator tasks required to make those maintenance steps take place, he said.

StorageTek Tape Analytics works exclusively with the StorageTek Modular Library System and is available now. Sun Microsystems acquired StorageTek in 2005 and subsequently was bought by Oracle in 2009. Oracle is now one of the world's largest tape infrastructure vendors, along with Spectra Logic, IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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