Mixing Tape and Cloud Backups to Protect Mainframe Data

The mainframe is renowned for its security, but businesses need a good off-site data storage strategy to ensure critical mainframe data can be recovered in the event of a disaster. While cloud backup is typically seen as the popular solution for disaster recovery, a venerable medium—tape backups—is returning to the mix as a viable option for long-term data archiving.

In a recent SHARE Academy session, Oracle’s Steve Aaker mentioned that enterprises are exploring disaster recovery options that mix cloud and tape.

The cloud is popular in disaster recovery, primarily because it’s affordable, quick to deploy, and generally easy to maintain. As businesses look to protect their corporate data from an increasing range of internal threats (such as human error) or external risks (such as data loss due to natural disasters, malware, or theft), storing important data off-site is an appealing option, especially given the low price of off-site data storage today.

Companies can choose from a variety of cloud data storage options, whether it’s a privately owned cloud that exists within the confines of the corporate firewall, a public cloud owned and operated by one of the big providers (Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Oracle, to name a few), or a mix of the two.

However, not all backup data can or should be stored in the cloud, Aaker explains. It takes time and bandwidth to pull data back down from the cloud in the event of a disaster, which can negatively impact the most important part of the term “disaster recovery”—the actual recovery.

As a result, tape backups are experiencing a bit of a resurgence. This is due to the fact that tape backups offer low-cost, high-capacity offline data archiving in situations when companies want to store lots of data for longer periods of time. That’s why Oracle includes tape as part of its public cloud solution, Aaker explained.

The Tape Storage Council also advocates tape’s benefits for long-term data archiving. With the amount of data created expected to increase by an eye-popping 4,300 percent by the year 2020, and businesses in regulated industries increasingly expected to hang on to important data longer for compliance, tape will play an important role in providing cost-effective long-term storage, said the TSC.

“Major cloud providers are quickly realizing the value for implementing tape in their cloud infrastructure as the amount of data is escalating and storing less active data exclusively on HDDs becomes increasingly cost prohibitive,” wrote the TDC in its memo.

Interestingly, the mainframe itself also plays a role in the cloud backup industry. Charles King, president and principal analyst of Pund-IT, wrote that mainframes provide the foundation for IBM’s managed cloud offerings, supporting IBM’s ability to offer a mirrored off-site IT environment.

In fact, cloud’s heritage lies in the mainframe. The cloud as we know it today defines “highly virtualized systems monitored and managed with mainly automated tools,” King writes. That concept has roots in 1972, when IBM rolled out its first VM/370 operating systems for mainframes.

Ultimately, the best mainframe disaster recovery strategy today might involve a mix of technologies: cloud for the storage and recovery of recent, mission-critical data, and tape or “cold storage” for long-term archiving.

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