IBM Debuts Speedy Tape Drives

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IBM debuted its TotalStorage 3580 tape drive Tuesday with a machine that pipes data at up to 80 megabytes per second. Big Blue said that’s nearly 20 percent faster than the fastest machine from rival Certance, which is being acquired by Quantum.

For a practical example of what 80MBps can provide, the linear tape-open (LTO) drive can back up more than five million telephone book entries in three seconds, said Charlie Andrews, director of tape marketing for IBM TotalStorage.

Andrews told that the new drive is part of the IBM TotalStorage Generation 3 LTO family. LTO is an open standard for tape drives created by IBM, HP and Certance as an alternative to Quantum’s DLT method.

The stakes are sizeable — IDC expects the midrange tape drive market to top $947 million by 2008.

Andrews said the Generation 3 family of LTO drives offers significant improvements over the Armonk, N.Y., company’s Generation 2 products. For example, the 3850 consumes less power than previous tape offerings from IBM because it employs electronics based on copper-based chips.

Generation 3 offers 38 percent more tracks, 100 percent more internal buffer and 100 percent more physical cartridge capacity, enabling the storage of up to 800 gigabytes of data on a single LTO 3 cartridge. The extra capacity should come in handy at a time when the mass of unstructured data continues to grow on networks.

Future products in Generation 3 drives will feature Fibre Channel connectivity, as well as write once, read many (WORM) functionality to support regulatory compliance requirements.

IBM also introduced on Tuesday the IBM TotalStorage T800 and T800F tape drives. Available in both SCSI and Fibre Channel versions, the drives are geared to be integrated by original equipment manufacturers (OEM) customers into their servers, desktop models and tape automation.

All the new drives, which will be sold by IBM and its OEM partners, will debut Dec. 17. The 3580 will retail for about $6,500, while OEMs will set their own prices for the machines they sell.

Sometimes criticized for its performance by champions of disk-based storage, tape-based storage remains a viable medium at a time when clients are looking for complete, balanced information lifecycle management suites. It’s also generally less expensive than disk storage.

A strategy for managing data from the time of their inception until they are ready for deletion, ILM is being pushed by vendors such as EMC, IBM, HP and StorageTek.

The market opportunity is clear: Customers are increasingly looking to corral data at a time when record retention rules, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA and SEC 17a-4, are growing. Many analysts have said businesses should employ both tape and disk-based storage for effective ILM.

While not as much of a revenue producer as IBM’s Enterprise Storage Server, tape storage makes up an integral part of IBM’s storage business because customers use the medium for data archival, business continuity and regulatory compliance.

Article courtesy of

Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton
Clint Boulton is an Enterprise Storage Forum contributor and a senior writer for covering IT leadership, the CIO role, and digital transformation.

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