Tape to outlast deduplication?
Back in 2009 deduplication** looked like it may be the technology to finally replace tape. Today when we consider how backup technology is progressing we at StorageAsean feel that the question to ask is no longer if deduplication will replace tape but more will deduplication remain useful for as long as tape.
When we look at today's backup technologies in relation to deduplication two terms come to mind
1- block level incremental forever backup
2 - Synthetic full backup.
Today it is possible to run backups in near real time, sending block level incremental changes to a disk based target. These changes are stored in such a way that it is possible to pull back a full recovery from any point in time over which the changes have been recorded. So if you record block level changes for a 3 month period, that means you can synthetically create a "full backup" of any point in time in the last 3 months and do a full Recovery to that point in time.
If you think this through, a spin-off of this process is that it delivers similar disk space saving benefits as deduplication. Users achieve huge storage savings using the block level incremental approach over doing weekly full and daily incrementals. Retaining 3 months of incremental forever backup may only require 120% of the disk you have for the primary storage you are protecting. Delivering the same kind of data reduction you would expect from deduplicating traditional backups, but with the ability to do a full recovery to nearly any point in time.
This kind of technology is compelling, and is already being delivered at consumer level pricing (Take a look at the recently released Warp from Ultrabac as an example). Traditional backup is still heavily used and where it is deduplication still makes sense, but as companies start to understand just what can be achieved with technology that allows them recreate a synthetic full backup from block level incremental forever, the drift away from traditional backups is likely to increase.
That said, whatever the backup method, once companies start to look at long term archive, (years rather months of archived backups), then tape is still king. Whether it's archiving deduplicated backups or archiving monthly or quarterly recreated synthetic full backups we see that tape still has a long term future. Ironic that just a few years after such a hot technology as deduplication comes along, we see technology evolve in a way that could make it largely redundant, yet tapes compelling benefits means it relevance continues to "trundle on".
** we are discussing backup deduplication appliances, we see a strong future for deduplication technology being utilised in many new ways including for primary storage