IBM Claims Tape Drive Supremacy - EnterpriseStorageForum.com

IBM Claims Tape Drive Supremacy

IBM will unveil a new tape drive today that the company claims makes it the biggest and baddest on the block.

With a native capacity of 300GB and a native drive data transfer rate of 40MB per second, IBM says its new TotalStorage Enterprise Tape Drive 3592 offers "better capacity, speed, and price than comparable StorageTek tape devices," and also includes features that make the 3592 useful for a broad range of applications and environments.

"This drive begins a new family that will set the stage for generations to come," avows Bruce Master, IBM's senior program manager for worldwide tape marketing.

IBM boasts the 3592 offers as much as 650% greater capacity and 33% greater speed than the StorageTek T9840C tape drive, with a list price that is approximately 16% lower. IBM says the 3592 also offers as much as 50% greater capacity and 33% greater speed than the StorageTek (STK) T9940B for about 19% less.

"The 3592 is the fastest tape drive on the market, with the highest capacity tape cartridges," says Nancy Marrone-Hurley, senior analyst at Enterprise Storage Group. "IBM has made significant improvements in this drive versus their 3590 offering, which puts them back in the lead over StorageTek.

"Customers will really benefit from the fact that they can mix and match these drives in the IBM 3494 and STK Powderhorn tape libraries — they can add these higher-performance drives on an as-needed basis while protecting current investments," continues Marrone-Hurly. "Not every user is going to need this kind of performance and density, but for those that do, it's a very cost effective solution."

The 3592 can integrate into IBM's 3494 family of linear tape libraries, providing scalability up to five petabytes of information storage. The drive is designed to work with the IBM's 3494 tape library, STK silo tape libraries, or function as a standalone rack solution.

The 3592 also enables customers to use a single tape drive for addressing both capacity and access-oriented applications, allowing them to meet the dual mandates of consolidating and reducing cost while coping with ever-greater data and regulatory demands, Master says.

Beta Test a Hit

The beta test for the 3592 was the largest ever for a new IBM tape product, and was so successful that Big Blue moved up the release date from next year, reports Master.

WesternGeco, a provider of seismic services to oil companies, and the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) were among the happy beta customers.

"The 3592's 3590-compatible driver interface has almost eliminated the need for making drive-dependent changes to application programs," states Tom Bell, senior systems programmer at WesternGeco.

ECMWF backs up a terabyte of data per day and has 25,000 active tapes, yet the center has experienced no hardware failures with the 3592, according to the center.

IBM says the 3592 also reduces "backhitching" – time-consuming delays when drives must stop and back up data – by creating a temporary work area on tape that writes to tape when the buffer is full, which Master maintains is a "revolutionary way to solve an age-old problem with tape, with multiple benefits." The technology could also save companies the cost of disk-to-disk-to-tape systems, he adds.

Fujifilm produces the advanced media tape cartridge that will be used in the 3592, based on the company's NANOCUBIC technology, which produces tapes with an ultra-thin layer coating of magnetic particles.

IBM also plans to introduce Write Once Read Many (WORM) media technology for the 3592 tape drive so that once written, data on the cartridges cannot be overwritten. The capability is of interest to customers who need to store large quantities of electronic records to meet regulatory and internal auditing requirements. IBM also plans to introduce a family of cartridge capacities to provide multiple price/performance points.

The 3592 is compatible with eServer zSeries, UNIX, Microsoft Windows, and Linux solutions. The new drive will be generally available for select AIX, Linux, and Microsoft Windows platforms on Sept. 12, and for all other supported platforms on Oct. 31, starting at $32,000. Through Sept. 30, qualified customers for IBM financing can select either a deferral of payments until Jan. 2004 or financing with rates as low as 2.75%.

The IBM Global Services Business Continuity and Recovery Services unit in North America will make the IBM Enterprise Tape Drive available for its customers beginning September 12.

Overland Also Challenges StorageTek

Overland Storage is another vendor challenging StorageTek in the $4.5 billion tape storage market, with the planned year-end introduction of its NEO 8000 series of enterprise libraries. With capacity ranging from 100 to 500 cartridges in a 19-inch rack footprint, Overland claims its products will be "the highest density libraries on the market."

Robert Amatruda, research manager for tape and removable storage at IDC, doesn't see Overland as a direct competitor to StorageTek. STK serves very large customers, Amatrude says, while Overland focuses more on OEMs. The products mark Overland's entry into the high end of the market, however, and Amatruda expects the products to be offered at an attractive price point.

StorageTek Takes Competition in Stride

StorageTek, for its part, is taking the sudden burst of competition in stride.

"StorageTek has a commanding leadership position in the high-end tape market with our 9840 and 9940 tape drives, automated library solutions, virtual tape, and all of the supporting software," says Gary Francis, corporate VP and general manager of StorageTek's Automated Tape Solutions Group. "Our leadership has come from the integration of world-class products into a complete tape solution that has provided our customers with unmatched investment protection.

"Speeds and feeds are one way to look at a product," continues Francis, "but we feel fully integrated solutions provide much superior answers to business problems. With our current portfolio and significant R&D funding for our future software and tape products, we expect to continue our leadership regardless of individual announcements from our competitors."

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