Mainframers are keeping tape as they add cloud backup, archive storage

An Evaluator Group research project has found that tape use by mainframe users is not going away and that cloud storage of their backup and archive data is increasing at the same time.

The downloadable Technical Insight report; “Use of Cloud Storage in Mainframe Environments” by analyst Randy Kerns, looked at enterprise mainframe users, not service providers or consulting companies. It says that “Public cloud storage usage for mainframe environments is expanding for a variety of reasons and mainframe cloud storage “is dominated by storing backup and archive data from the mainframe.”

General mainframe application storage in the cloud was found to be too expensive: “storage costs were prohibitive because of the class (expensive performance level) of storage required and the time-based charges for the amount that was resident.“ This led to some application repatriation. Specific archive and backup storage use on the cloud though, was common.

The report states: “More than half of respondents reported storing more than one half of a petabyte of data in clouds. That is a large amount of data for mainframe environments and the expense of storage and management, either on-premises or in a public cloud, would be a noticeable amount in an overall budget.” 

Is it increasing or decreasing in amount? It is increasing by more than 11 percent in more than two thirds of the surveyed mainframe users; 

The analyst found that: “It is easier to acquire and utilize cloud storage than on-premises systems. Backup and archive were the primary types of data cited by every interviewee and the growth was primarily due to expanded usage.”

Also the data stored in the clouds is in tape image format, even though some of the users do not have tape on premises: “Interviews indicated that even though some are not using tape, they are still using tape images stored on disk-based systems such as an IBM TS7700 system. The commentary about moving away from operational practices around tape or tape images was that it would be very difficult to change.”

Why are mainframers in general still using tape? Tape was comparatively cheap and mainframe tape-based “operational procedures could not be changed without great difficulty.” Having a physical air gap with tape was cited as good news in this age of ransomware. But; “only a few of those interviewed were using immutable settings for cloud storage. This seemed to be a contradiction in the concern for security and the ransomware recovery strategy. Probing further, the belief was ransomware recovery would be done from on-premises copies.“

Tape use was increasing for about a third of the respondents, due to organic data growth, with the majority saying it was staying at the same level.

The report states: “The use of cloud storage for mainframe data was seen as a more modern approach for backup and archive, much simpler to acquire than virtual tape or physical tape with required technology transitions, and would help in executive directives about use of public cloud. However, use of existing tape was so ingrained in the operations that making a change was a major effort unlikely to have budget assigned.”

Overall: “The research and interviews show that use of cloud storage will continue to increase and that tape usage will continue in most cases.” Cloud storage use for the backup and archive of relatively inactive data, and is increasing faster than the organic growth rate of mainframe data.

You can download the report here (registration required).