StorageTek Plays in Its Own Tape Library League

StorageTek already leads the market in shipments of high-end automated tape systems and drives, but the company sure isn’t resting on its laurels.

StorageTek on Wednesday took the wraps off its StreamLine SL8500 Modular Library System — a quantum leap over the company’s enterprise-class
PowderHorn 9310, which StorageTek will continue selling.

Jon Benson, STK’s VP of engineering, says the SL8500 is the first library to provide near-continuous operation, and can be serviced “on the fly,” with no
outage. “That has never been achieved before in tape automation,” he boasts.

STK claims the SL8500 is the industry’s first tape library to provide true mixed media and interfaces for consolidating enterprise and mid-range computing infrastructures and allowing dynamic upgrades of capacity and throughput.

The SL8500 starts at about 1,500 cartridge slots and scales to more than 200,000 slots via pass-through-port capabilities. The SL8500 attaches to mainframe, supercomputing, UNIX, Linux, and Windows environments to support mixed media, including the StorageTek T9X40 family of tape drives, LTO Gen2,
and SDLT 600, with plans to integrate disk support later. The SL8500’s robotics can provide more than 1,000 mounts per hour, and STK also claims the highest slot density in the industry, with more than 50 cartridges per square foot.

“The performance, reliability, and manageability of the SL8500 are impressive,” gushes Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner at Data Mobility Group. “StorageTek has done an excellent job in understanding customers’ data protection requirements and building solutions that meet those needs.”

Benson says the SL8500 is targeted at major banks, airlines, retail operations, and any organization with global or round-the-clock needs. It also saves money through management, protection, consolidation, and floor space savings, according to Benson.

The SL8500 provides ultra high reliability, availability, and serviceability (RAS). IT managers can choose the level of availability based on the mix of
hot-swappable, fully redundant components, which can be upgraded dynamically on-the-fly or without scheduled downtime.

The SL8500 will also support policy-based backup management features such as tape copy, media conversion, and electronic vaulting.

By providing a reliable disk buffer in front of the tape drives, the SL8500 will manage any drive or media errors in the background. Backups will complete to the disk buffer, and then if any errors are encountered in moving the data to tape, the SL8500 will automatically complete the backup to a different tape drive or cartridge.

The SL8500 is also designed so that new drives can be removed and replaced within the system without affecting the servers. The disk buffer can continue to present the same image to the servers even though the drive technology behind it has been updated. To simplify migration, the old data can be migrated to new cartridges automatically.

The library will also support drive sharing behind its disk cache. IT managers won’t have to manage and balance drive utilization across servers, requiring fewer drives to store the same amount of data. Drives can be shared across Unix, NT, Linux, and mainframe machines.

The SL8500 will be available in the first half of 2004. The company hasn’t issued pricing yet, but it says the SL8500 will be “priced competitively and
slightly higher” than the PowderHorn, which costs $100,000 for a base model and about $500,000 with drives, media, and other features.

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Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for Time.com, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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