HP Injects Intelligence into Its Tape Libraries

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Hewlett-Packard has introduced the next generation of its tape library architecture.

The HP StorageWorks Extended Tape Library Architecture is designed to meet enterprise storage area network (SAN) requirements for high reliability, interoperability, and advanced functionality, according to the company. The architecture brings a layer of intelligence to tape drives and the SAN for increased levels of data protection and management.

SAN backup provides a consolidated, cost-effective, and scalable solution for enterprise data protection. However, requirements for real-time business flexibility, exploding customer data growth, and constant configuration changes generate network conflicts and create SAN instability, contends HP.

To help customers better align business processes to IT and manage the complexities of SAN environments, the new tape library architecture features a controller-based design similar to that of network-attached disk arrays. The controller provides the consolidation, scalability, “share-ability,” security, reliability, and redundancy requirements demanded by today’s SANs, according to HP.

“Incorporating intelligence and advanced capabilities into the tape architecture storage subsystem enables enterprises to achieve greater utilization of their tape assets while reducing costs associated with tape library management,” says Fara Yale, senior vice president at Gartner.

HP isn’t the first to add intelligence to tape libraries. StorageTek, for one, offers intelligent mixed media support via its ACSLS library management
software, among other offerings, and pledges additional announcements next month.

Controllers Available Now, Interface Manager Coming Soon

HP maintains its architecture allows storage to self-manage and self-correct failures in real time for continuous availability. Its layered, component-based platform makes it easy for enterprises to gradually transform their existing tape libraries into SAN-ready storage environments.

“With the HP StorageWorks Extended Tape Library, HP is incorporating intelligence into the architecture to enable tape libraries and drives to function with greater business agility, improve storage asset utilization, and simplify management through a centralized controller,” says Rick Luttrall, director of nearline product marketing for HP Network Storage Solutions.

The first architectural components to be release are embedded, integrated interface controllers that sit between the tape drives and the SAN to manage and simplify shared access in the network. Interface controllers offer device-level security to block disruptive input/output requests, use caching to respond for busy tape drives during backup or restore, and intelligently handle network SAN events.

The controllers also offer greater network reliability through SAN-smart event reporting that can monitor, track, and detect errors affecting SAN backup and restore operations as well as identify configuration issues and conflicts in the SAN.

Interface manager, expected to be available in September, provides a centralized point of knowledge for the library and the SAN, and intelligently configures the system based on knowledge of the network and tape library, while automatically adapting to changes. The interface manager contains on-board Flash memory to maintain a persistent, extended history of the tape library and storage network health to offer in-depth analysis and data collection to detect errors, according to HP.

The architecture allows interfaces to be changed independently of the tape drive. HP also boasts a “Fibre Channel interface offering the broadest heterogeneous SAN interoperability in the market” that supports Windows, HP-UX, Solaris, Linux, Tru64, AIX and NetWare; FC host bus adapters from HP, Qlogic, Emulex, and JNI; edge and director-class FC switches from Brocade and McData; 1 Gb and 2 Gb switches; and backup and management software applications from HP OpenView, VERITAS, Computer Associates, and IBM Tivoli.

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Paul Shread
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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