My name's Matthew Barnson. I'm happy to talk storage and tape technologies any time, and am pretty certain I'm not a pathological liar. But, you know, I could be lying about that. I live in Utah, and work in a pretty large data center nearby. It's my job to know what I'm talking about, and I've lived and breathed this stuff for a number of years. That said, I can always be mistaken.
Nice to meet you, Anonymous Coward. Feel free to send me an email (email@example.com) and we can talk use cases where tape is the obvious and better choice, and those where disk is the obvious and better choice. I'm a storage and backup admin working in the industry for nearly twenty years, and have had discussions similar to this over coffee tables, water coolers, and in board rooms. The discussions end up being about things like performance, ROI, archival needs, reliability, typical use case, auditability, and more. Depending on which angle you look at it, some technologies win and others lose.
The point of THIS discussion was some writer who assumed tape was dead learned otherwise. I allege tape is not dead, and has never been over the past six decades, for numerous good reasons (and some bad ones). That said, I have no particular attachment to it other than that it is often the right solution for enterprise needs when other solutions -- like finicky, unreliable optical media -- will not do.
Anyway, if you want to argue about raw vs. compressed capacity, that's fine. We compress data on our ZFS storage appliances because it improves performance, not just capacity. Same with tape. I routinely shove more than 10GB of uncompressed data at the 5TB at my T10K T2 tapes, and seamlessly/transparently pull 10GB of uncompressed data off of them. The fact it was compressed in between is relevant, perhaps, but what's also relevant is that we usually fit in excess of 10TB of data per tape. If you're willing to play by real names, I can provide some stats to back up the claim that most modern tape drives easily and typically achieve their rated compressed capacity figures.
We see that with LZJB compression on our storage appliances as well: about 1.7 to 2.4:1 compression, on average. It varies by what you're storing, of course. Our patch repository, for instance, sees pretty terrible compression ratios as it's trying to compress gzipped and zipped data. On the other hand, general-purpose file storage can see considerably better results.
I maintain that tape is a key sell for customers who audit us regularly. The fact that data is stored on tape, shipped to a secure facility for storage in an EM-resistant container and cage, and retained for a specific period is a revenue driver in the post-9/11, Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA era. I have to provide evidence on this to auditors regularly. Among other things, customers who care about their data often aren't satisfied with many pure on-disk solutions: they want data guarantees of timeliness, throughput, encryption and the keys for decryption, and timely windows for restoration of data in case of disaster or "oops". Yet these same customers often aren't willing to pay what it costs to have a fully redundant, disaster-tolerant environment that could weather another 9/11 and come up in an alternate location instantly. In that great land of the "in between" is one gigantic area where tape shines at a reasonable cost.
Tape has its share of problems, to be sure. But there are many cases where it is simply the best solution, providing a solution to common data transport and archival challenges like it has for the past sixty years.