IBM Adds New Storage Disk, Drive Systems


IBM has broadened its storage product line for medium-sized companies, including a new high-end midrange disk system and the next iteration of its midrange tape system for archiving data and disaster recovery.

Big Blue, presiding over its IBM PartnerWorld conference in New Orleans this week, introduced the FAStT 900 from its TotalStorage line of midrange disk storage systems, which the company claimed has as much as 120% read/write performance improvement over previous models. It also debuted the TotalStorage Linear Tape-Open Ultrium 2 drive, which it said will prove to be the fastest LTO tape drive performance available. In fact, the systems vendor said the new drive is 17% faster than LTO 2 drives from competitors such as HP and Seagate.

Roland Hagan, vice president of storage marketing, IBM Systems Group, said the products were created to help enterprises with less than 1,000 employees consolidate data networks to make storage management less cumbersome. Specifically, the FAStT disk system is geared for digital media or life science applications, which Hagan said don't require optimum levels of reliability.

The FAStT 900 runs at 2GB Fibre Channel technology and scales from 36GB to more than 32TB to support e-business applications and other data files intended to scale. Hagan said customers may also get FAStT 900 fitted with a feature from IBM's on-demand e-business strategy -- the optional autonomic FAStT Service Alert function, which will alert IBM if a problem occurs so a technician can quickly diagnose the problem and fix it. FAStT 900 will be available March 14, 2003.

IBM also offered some news on the tape drive front, as it released two TotalStorage Ultrium 2 tape drives. The new machines were created with the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) standard for tape drive interoperability. Created by IBM, HP and Seagate, the LTO standard provides formats for both fast data access and high storage capacity.

Hagan said TotalStorage UltraScalable Tape Library 3584 and the TotalStorage Ultrium External Tape Drive 3580 double the capacity and the performance of IBM Ultrium 1 drives. Ultrium 2 also has a "sleep" function which switches the drive to a lower power setting when it is not in use. Cartridge room is 200GB at a 35 MB per second data rate.

As with the FAStT 900, Hagan said Big Blue is also adding autonomic computing enhancements to the UltraScalable Tape Library 3584 to include control path failover. In this safeguarding function, one communication path is substituted for another in the event of a disruption. Moreover, the new drives work backward and forward -- they can read and write to Ultrium 1 cartridges, which means customers don't have to throw out the Ultrium 1 drives to use Ultrium 2 gadgets. The new systems are currently shipping.

Hagan, who said medium-sized businesses are more prevalent than small and large enterprises, also said Tivoli Storage Manager now supports its storage and tape libraries.

IBM also announced availability of the Cisco MDS 9216 and 9509 from IBM and IBM Business Partners in the United States for enterprise-class storage networks.

Analysts, Customers Respond Favorably

Acxiom, a provider of customer and information management solutions, tested the performance of the FAStT 900 in business intelligence workloads scanning multiple-terabyte tables and found it to be consistently 90 percent faster than the previous FAStT 700 model. This performance improvement can translate into a competitive advantage for many Acxiom clients running data warehousing applications, IBM said.

"The outstanding performance of the new IBM FAStT 900 storage server provides our customers with enterprise class performance at lower cost," said Frank Caserta, Senior Technical Leader, Acxiom. "Our customers are demanding more performance to support their mission critical business intelligence applications, and that's exactly what the FAStT 900 delivers. Our performance hungry customers will quickly see the benefits offered by IBM's new offering."

Analysts also responded favorably to the new offerings from Big Blue.

Evaluator Group Senior Partner Ron Johnson said the FAStT 900 "is a logical extension of the IBM/LSI Storage Systems relationship. It is based on the LSI 5884 controller. The FAStT900 is a high-performance array with a rich set of software features, including PIT Copy and Remote Copy. It is an excellent solution [for] single or cluster servers or as a SAN consolidation." He said another benefit is that the FAStT storage can be used in the DataCore SANsymphony abstraction solution.

Nancy Marrone of Enterprise Storage Group said the new FAStT 900 "has much better performance numbers than the old version...much greater scalability and new reliability features like phone home, built in replication with flash copy and remote mirroring capability."

"IBM is keeping in step with the competition," Marrone said. "They needed to respond to mid-range offerings from the other top storage vendors. The FAStT has always been strong from a performance perspective -- it's essentially OEMed from LSI, and the LSI controllers are top notch. These new features address the customers' requirements to add high-end features into the products for the mid-range without significantly increasing costs. These new features should help IBM maintain the success they have had with the FAStT."

Michael Karp of Enterprise Management Associates said the 900 "hits a good price/performance point. It matches up very closely with HP's EVA array and will certainly be competitive in terms of performance with the Clariion CX600."

Current Ultrium users will also be pleased with the new performance characteristics, Karp said, which let them read and write in half the time of Ultrium 1, while maintaining the value of the existing Ultrium 1 media. Karp also said the Ultrium 2 drive offers SCSI LVD160 and HVD connectivity, which match up against HP's Ultrium, and 2GB Fibre Channel, which matches up against STK's offering. "Speed and power management appear to be impressive compared to those two as well," he said.

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