#183 – Magnetic Tape AMA (Ask Matt Anything)

#183 – Magnetic Tape AMA (Ask Matt Anything)

Chris EvansData Protection, Storage Hardware, Storage Unpacked Podcast

This week Chris and Martin take the opportunity to grill (not broil) Matt Starr from Spectralogic to learn everything about magnetic tape. This episode came out of a discussion with Chris Mellor (episode #176) in which we asked the question why tape media doesn’t wear out. The answer is obviously within the podcast so you’ll need to listen to find out!

In this conversation, the team look back at the evolution of tape but more importantly what we can expect in the future. Magnetic tape is more of an archive offering these days (although ransomware has made it more popular for air-gapping backups). It seems tape has a long future as the lowest cost storage medium with lots of innovations still to come.

You can learn more about Spectra Logic over at https://spectralogic.com/. The featured image for this episode is a single 44-cabinet tape library as mentioned in the podcast that was taken at a Spectra Logic event in 2013.

Elapsed Time: 00:35:47


  • 00:00:00 – Intros
  • 00:02:20 – A brief history of magnetic tape
  • 00:03:00 – Cartridges introduced the ability for automation
  • 00:05:50 – AT&T test pings and automated tape loading
  • 00:07:25 – LTO and MagStar are the leading tape formats today
  • 00:08:00 – What is helical scan, serpentine and linear?
  • 00:09:30 – Tape damage is an ongoing issue
  • 00:10:00 – ECC on tape is much better than disk
  • 00:13:40 – What size are tape heads and how do they fly?
  • 00:18:51 – What are the current tape technologies?
  • 00:20:00 – IBM can test features on Jaguar before considering LTO
  • 00:21:50 – Disk took over the backup mantle from tape
  • 00:23:40 – Ransomware makes tape more applicable for backup
  • 00:25:50 – Tape offers the cost-effective location for data
  • 00:28:00 – Tape users are decreasing but storing more data
  • 00:29:50 – What is the future for tape?
  • 00:30:28 – Time to first byte will be important to improve
  • 00:33:00 – Object to Tape is on the horizon

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