Tape-as-a-Service Offers A New Take On An Old Solution

Tape-as-a-Service Offers A New Take On An Old Solution

Backing up data to tape remains a viable path for many businesses. And even though it seems to be old school, it’s still being developed even though disk-based backup has been gaining in popularity. IBM recently upped their tape capacities to 15TB. However, with more and more systems being managed remotely through private, public and hybrid cloud services, it’s getting harder to justify tape as traditional deployments struggle to capture a complete snapshot of all your business data. That’s why tape as a Service is appearing.

We looked at Tape as a Service a few years ago but the concept as moved on from when Angus wrote about it. Back then, it was about paying a third party to help manage tape-based backups so that older archival data could be accessed even when the tape format companies were using became unreadable because the required reading equipment was no longer available. But the name is be re-appropriated for something quite different.

In a traditional 3-2-1 backup regime (three copies of your data on two different media with one offsite copy) tape made a lot of sense as it easily fitted the bill. But traditional backup approaches were predicated on being able to get all the data to the tape. That’s much harder when your data isn’t centralised.

Tape-as-a-Service can tick the same boxes as traditional tape but, as it’s a hosted solution, is designed to capture data that is scattered across multiple repositories such as IaaS and SaaS services. The service is designed to connect to multiple services and pull the data together.

It’s solution that Veeam is adding to their product portfolio. StarWind Cloud VTL (Virtual Tape Library) for AWS and Veeam is a scalable tape replacement system that work with Amazon S3 and Glacier object storage. It’s purpose to help businesses meet regulatory requirements for data retention with no changes to the established tape-centric data archival processes.

Here’s how Tape-as-a-Service will work.

Cloud service providers will offer customers an option to save their data, whether that’s business information, snapshots of virtual machines, or anything else an option for retaining data to long-term archival storage. That could be disk, tape or whatever medium the service provider decides to offer to their customers.

For a user perspective, this might be as simple as selecting a checkbox from your configuration preferences.

At the moment, the service which is just entering a technical preview phase, is limited to workloads on AWS but it is likely to expand to other workloads and services.

Many industries are subject to compliance regimes that require they use backup systems predicated on tape-based practices. For example, when I ran IT in a school that was subject to a number of different ISO accreditation standards, it was required that our backup processes complied with certain practices.

Tape also has the advantage of being physically air-gapped so a system incident at the data source won’t impact the backups – something that remains an issue for locally-based disk systems. Many ransomware variants seek out backup software and either disable it before doing their damage or they seek to encrypt the backups as well.

What’s clear is that as more systems are hosted outside on-prem data centres, existing backup processes will need to adapt. It’s not enough to simply trust that service providers will protect your data. And while tape-as-a-service, as it exists, is still in its infancy

Anthony Caruana attended VeeamON in New Orleans as a guest of Veeam.


  • Tape also has the advantage of being physically air-gapped

    Tapes are awesome in that regard – the other positives are their longevity and resilience.

    Disk of course have their advantages too; speed being a factor.

    Some organisations have dedicated SAN’s with slower spindle disks purely for backup purposes.

    I envisage the venerable tape will probably be superseded by some kind of standard using a SSD-like cartridge – improving write speeds while maintaining the air-gapped notion. The linchpin at present is capacity.

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