Tape Storage Buying Guide

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Like Rodney Dangerfield, the tape storage market gets no respect. Yet it remains a multi-billion dollar slice of the overall storage pie. Therefore, Enterprise Storage Forum is going to provide updates on the tape market regularly.

In this buying guide, we cover a massive tape archiving system from Spectra Logic, new LTO-6 tape drives by Tandberg Data, and tape integrity and management tools from Oracle, as well as Oracle’s newest mainframe tape product.

Tape Archive

The T-Finity automated tape library from Spectra Logic is huge. It is a dual robot (active/active) library, which means that both robots can access every tape and drive in the system. That is quite a feat when you consider that it can scale to 40 frames and 50,100 LTO slots. It can hold up to 120 tape drives within one large library.

“It can expand to an eight-library complex with 400,800 LTO slots and a capacity of up to 960 tape drives,” explained Jon Hiles, senior product manager – enterprise solutions at Spectra Logic. “That translates into a capacity of up to 3.6EB of compressed data.”

The T-Finity tends to compete against the IBM TS3500 and Oracle SL8500 tape libraries. However, Hiles claims that his product has a far higher slot capacity, better density and much lower power consumption. The base configuration sells for $256,000, which includes the following:

  • Base frame, dual robots, 2x service frames, 2x LTO5 tape drives, 100 slots.
  • Integrated software: (Library operating system software, Media Lifecycle Management, Drive Lifecycle Management, Data Integrity Verification, Basic Edition Encryption).
  • Expands to 12 drives and 1,920 slots with no additional library hardware required.

“We are seeing a continued movement towards energy efficient, high density storage,” said Hiles.

Tape Integrity, Management and Mainframe Products

Two of the big disses that disk-based storage vendors voice about tape are problems with data integrity and the hassle of managing large volumes of tape. There are plenty of stories around about tape recoveries failing because the data was not backed up properly in the first place (or was corrupted), as well as stories about poor storage admins looking for a byte in a haystack (trying to locate one file among hundreds of tape cartridges).

The industry has responded with a wave of tools to help guarantee backup and tape integrity and to assist in streamlining tape management. Accordingly, Oracle just came out with a series of tools to convince its user base to stay the course with tape rather than moving to disk (or to a rival tape vendor).

Its Sun QFS 5.3, when used with Oracle’s StorageTek T10000C Tape Drives, initiates data verification within the tape drive. It also offers tiered storage support, better Windows and Mac OS interoperability and improved analytics via Static Defined Tracing probes, which provide insight into file-level operations. And Oracle’s Sun Storage Archive Manager 5.3 has policy-based storage tiering and support for Data Integrity Verification in StorageTek T10000C Tape Drives.

“Oracle is delivering closer integration with Oracle software to enable customers to more effectively manage and protect their data on tape,” said James Cates, vice president, hardware development for Oracle.

In addition, the company has announced StorageTek Virtual Storage Manager 6, which is a mainframe virtual tape storage system with a single point of management that leverages the security of the mainframe environment. It is said to provide two times the performance and more than 1.8 times the capacity of the previous generation. It scales to over 640 petabytes and has throughput of 1,200 MB/sec.

Like Spectra Logic, Oracle claims its product is better than the competing IBM product, the TS7700. The company said it is about 20 percent faster with over 50 times the disk capacity.

“Oracle is confirming its commitment to the mainframe virtual tape market with the introduction of the next generation of the StorageTek virtual tape technology,” said Robert Amatruda, an analyst at IDC.

New Tape Format

Perhaps the biggest news in tape is the appearance of the latest Linear Tape Open (LTO) format known as LTO-6. Each generation of LTO generally adds more capacity and more performance, and vendors race to get their compliant products onto the market.

“With LTO6 now entering the market from several different vendors, including drives, libraries and media, that should be proof that tape is still very much alive,” said Greg Schulz, an analyst with StorageIO Group. “Larger organizations are shifting the focus of tape from routine backups to where the technology is better suited, streaming of large amounts of data that then goes dormant, in other words master, gold backups for emergencies, or true disaster recovery or archiving.”

Tandberg Data, for example, has released new LTO-6 tape drives, tape automation and media products. The cartridges offer twice the capacity as the previous generation, which means the Tandberg Data LTO-6 tape drive delivers up to 6.25TB of compressed cartridge capacity and speeds of up to 1.4TB per hour. The company’s StorageLoader can scale up to 50TB with LTO-6. This autoloader has eight slots.

The Tandberg StorageLoader is a tape library offering 12 or 24 slots and up to 150TB of compressed storage. The StorageLibrary T40+, on the other hand, has 24 or 40 slots and up to 250TB of compressed storage. A Pass-Thru feature enables up to five StorageLibrary T40+ units to be stacked together to increase capacity up to 1.2PB and performance up to 28.8TB per hour. Tandberg LTO-6 tape drive pricing starts at $2,995, while its tape automation pricing starts at $4,995. LTO-6 media cartridges cost $110.

Those behind LTO are smart enough to make the latest format compatible with earlier generations. They have write compatibility back one generation and read compatibility back two generations. Tandberg’s LTO-6 line supports 256-bit AES hardware encryption and WORM for regulatory compliance. You can also partition the data cartridges so you can store different file types in different locations on each tape to reduce access times.

“LTO tape technology is the most cost-effective way to protect the deluge of digital data generated daily by most businesses,” said Graham Paterson, senior vice president of Tandberg Data.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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