Networking's greatest debates in the Data Center

All time classic debates include Mac Vs PC, Tape storage vs. disk storage and AMD vs. Intel

Tape storage vs. disk storage

Many prognosticators saw the emergence of fast disk-based storage systems in the early 2000s as the beginning of the end for methodical tape-based storage, but tape storage celebrated its 50th birthday in 2003 and is still looking in relatively good health. It might not be the first choice for primary storage at many businesses, but tape is typically the final resting place of loads of archived data because its cost is relatively low and it can be used to store data offsite.

"Most secondary and all tertiary storage functions and utilities, such as disk backup, transporting of large data databases and data archiving, are ... best performed on tape," says a recent study from Freeman Reports. "Accordingly, tape subsystems usually accompany secondary disk subsystems to provide an optimum solution."

Not that tape is exactly thriving even in that role. Freeman estimated that tape library revenue dropped more than 15% from 2005 to 2006.

Disk's ability to back up and recover data faster at a slightly higher premium than tape has made it the preferable way to protect data. "The cost per

megabyte of magnetic disk storage continues to fall, resulting in a perception that disk storage is closing the price gap with tape storage," says Freeman Reports. Some have even raised the question of whether tape really is less expensive than disk.

A recent report from the Enterprise Strategy Group shows that 21% of the respondents backed up data to disk, 51% backed up to disk and then to tape and 29% backed up to tape only.

Adding insult to injury for tape suppliers, newfangled virtual tape systems are actually disk-based systems that emulate robotic tape libraries, enabling customers to stick with a consistent data management scheme while taking advantage of disk's speed. iDeni Connor

AMD vs. Intel

Advanced Micro Devices deployed Darth Vader and a platoon of Storm Troopers to greet visitors to a Barcelona launch event at Lucasfilm in September, but it was Intel that was assigned the role of the "Evil Empire."

AMD, long the oppressed rebel force in the chip industry, managed to launch an attack on the Intel Death Star with the introduction of its 64-bit Opteron processors in 2003. Opteron ran 64-bit applications and legacy 32-bit applications without the drag on performance noted in Intel's Itanium processors. AMD upped the ante further in 2005 with the introduction of its first dual-core Opteron processors that doubled the performance of single-core Opterons.

The first chink in Intel's armor appeared in the second quarter of that year when, as Mercury Research reported, Intel's market share slipped to 82.5%, from 82.8 % in the year ago quarter, while AMD's inched up to 15.7 % from 15.6 %.

AMD further provoked Intel by running a newspaper ad challenging Intel to a processor duel, using the image of an AMD chip in a boxing ring. AMD's share rose to 25.3 % in the fourth quarter of 2006, while Intel's fell to 74.4 %. Intel, while perhaps surprised, didn't take long to retaliate. Intel (2006 revenue, US$35 billion) financed a price war with AMD (US$5.6 billion) that pushed AMD into a pool of red ink, losing US$2.1 billion over the last four quarters.

But AMD also fought back with a gavel, suing Intel in 2006 in U.S. District Court on grounds of antitrust violations, a suit that's still pending.

But Intel also matched AMD on the product side, introducing a dual-core Xeon processor in 2005, and regained the upper hand on AMD with its first quad-core Xeon in early 2007. AMD hastened to point out that all Intel did to make a quad-core was squeeze two dual-cores onto one piece of silicon. AMD introduced its "native" quad-core Barcelona at that Lucasfilm event September 10.

On the eve of the Barcelona launch, Bruce Shaw, AMD's director of server and workstation product marketing, said AMD may be battle-weary but is still in the fight: "If you look at the market as a whole it's hard not to wax poetic about [how] we've brought competition to the market just by being here." -Robert Mullins

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