Channel Insider content and product recommendations are editorially independent. We may make money when you click on links to our partners. Learn More.

Despite predictions to the contrary, tape-based storage, backup and archiving technology is far from dead. In fact, Overland Storage has introduced next-generation models of its NEO series automated tape libraries to capitalize on the still-growing need for scalable, affordable and reliable data protection and archiving solutions.

According to Robert Amatruda, research director at IDC for tape and removable storage, the midrange tape automation market is still a $1 billion industry, with more than 100,000 units shipped in 2008. Even as disk-based storage technologies become more affordable and move downmarket, tape is still the primary technology small and midsize businesses and midmarket companies rely on as a major part of their storage and backup strategy, says Peri Grover, Overland’s director of marketing.

“In recent years, what solution providers have said is, ‘Our customers still need to use tape for its high capacity, to gain energy savings and for its portability.’ They still need to keep this in the data center,” Grover says.

Those demands resulted in Overland and its solution providers moving to a tiered data protection strategy, using a combination of disk- and tape-based technologies based on data’s importance and how quickly customers need to access it, she says.

While Overland’s history is solidly rooted in tape library technology, Grover says the key to the company’s growth and success has been its ability to expand on that core competency and provide new technologies to solve customers’ business problems.

“We like to use a knife analogy,” says Grover, “If you have one knife in your drawer, and it’s a butter knife, that’s great for butter, but good luck cutting a steak. With a full set of ‘knives,’ you can accomplish more for customers. It doesn’t meant that any of those knives are less valuable, they just have different purposes,” she says.

“The majority of companies still depend on tape for long-term archive and disaster recovery,” Amatruda says, especially in the midmarket, where the need for affordable, reliable backup and archiving systems, including tape, is still growing.

To meet these needs, Grover says Overland considered introducing a completely new, next-generation automated tape library. Overland conducted research within its partner community to determine how to proceed, but Grover said solution providers gave them a surprising answer.

“Our solution provider partners said … we love NEO, our customers know it works and there’s incredible name recognition. You should take what you have and build on that,” Grover says.

The new NEO E-series does exactly that, building on the success of previous NEO lines, says Grover, while incorporating new technology and features customers demanded. The new NEO E-Series enables embedded SCSI, Fibre Channel and SAS connectivity, easing installations while ensuring connectivity with future interface technologies.

Additionally, the new NEO E-Series integrates easily with Overland’s disk-based backup and recovery VTLs (virtual tape library), NAS (network-attached storage) appliances, and SAN (storage area network) storage, as well as other disk-based products, says Grover.

Overland’s NEO 2000E scales from 30 to 240 cartridges per module while the NEO 4000E scales from 60 to 240 cartridges.  NEO2000E and 4000E can be scaled with each other in an almost limitless combination, providing a variety of capacity points to meet user needs, she says.

Grover says she expects most customers will quickly transition to the new NEO E-series, since the product has a competitive price, improved feature set and includes enhanced services. Overland, however, is holding off on any end-of-life announcements for previous generations of NEO product lines, she says.

“We have not yet set an end-of-life date because we know there are many customers who are still using previous generations. We are really cognizant of not pulling the rug out from under existing partners with their sales,” Grover says. The company will wait until the majority of customers are ready to transition to the new NEO lines before eliminating service and support for the old, she says.