Tech moves fast! Stay ahead of the curve with Techopedia!
Join nearly 200,000 subscribers who receive actionable tech insights from Techopedia.
A tape library is a storage system that contains multiple tape drives, some bays or slots to hold tapes, a scanner of some kind such as a barcode reader or an RF scanner, and a robotic system that automates the loading and changing of tapes. It is essentially a collection of tapes and tape drives that store information, usually for backup.
A tape library is also known as a tape silo, tape jukebox or tape robot.
A tape library is a high-capacity storage system used for storing, retrieving, reading from and writing to tape cartridges. A tape library contains racks of cartridges and multiple tape drives with a robotic system used for automatically changing tape cartridges. A filing system that uses a barcode reader or an RF scanner allows the tape library to find the correct tape to load either for writing or for reading.
Because larger tape library units can hold thousands of tape cartridges, their capacity currently ranges anywhere from 20 terabytes to 2.1 exabytes. This is more than a thousand times larger than the capacity of common hard drives and well beyond the capacities economically possible with network-attached storage (NAS), but the speed of finding the actual data amidst hundreds or thousands of tape cartridges and then going to the exact location on a specific roll of tape where the data are located takes a lot of time, so the system is only suitable for backups that may not be needed for a long time. Tape libraries are also expensive, costing in excess of a million dollars for a fully expanded library. One of the earliest tape library units was the IBM 3850 Mass Storage System (MSS), which came out in 1974.