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IBM Unveils New 3590 Tape Drive

IBM is rolling out the latest version of its 3590 line of tape storage products that it said can boost storage capability by 50 percent in mainframe environments.

Called the "TotalStorage Enterprise Tape Drive 3590 Model H," the product is rolling out with new "virtual" back-up hardware called "TotalStorage Virtual Tape Server."

IBM, in its 50th year designing magnetic tape storage systems, said the new 3590 H Model tape drive stores up to 50 percent more information than existing 3590 tape cartridges. It features a 384-track magnetic recording head designed to boost capacity and reduce the amount of floor space designated for storage. It can also read cartridges written with the previous B and E models.

Both the 3590 Model H and Virtual Tape Server (VTS) products are aimed at extending SAN back-ups using FICON (IBM's fiber optic connection channel) by improving back-up connections with older Enterprise System Connections (ESCON) environments in mid-market storage area networks.

The goal is to help mainframe enterprise customers lower infrastructure costs by replacing multiple ESCON channels with a single FICON channel, thereby cutting down on the data back-up bottlenecks in ESCON environments where native and compressed data capture times are much slower. In short, mainframe environments have a new product to help them adopt open systmes in data back-up planning, while protecting their existing media investment.

IBM's Bruce Master, a senior program manager in the company's tape division, said in a mainframe environment, one FICON connection can produce about a 4-to-1 reduction in infrastructure. "Because FICON is so big, I could put a couple of tape drives on that bandwidth," he said. "That's part of the value proposition. There's less cable and fewer ports. Customers like that, there's less to manage and less cost involved. "

New capabilities of the Virtual Tape Server (VTS) 3494 include "Volume Pooling" that saves "like" data together on a particular set of tape cartridges, IBM said. It also has enhanced ability to create dual copies in order to help improve data recovery planning.

The VTS is also built to allow longer distances between the server and tape storage devices and comes with beefed up remote management capabilities from any Web browser. IBM said the new VTS functions would be available on September 6th of this year. The FICON Performance Accelerator is set to hit the market by January 31, 2003.

Walter Raizner, general manager for storage products, IBM Storage Systems Group said given the market shift to storage networking and an increased focus on disaster recovery and planning, "tape storage simply cannot be beat for protecting valuable data that customers' use to run their operations."

That's what led the company to upgrade the 3590 family of tape drives with a plan to eventually release one terabyte tape cartridges, he said.

The new 3590 Model H has a 14-megabyte per second native data rate and native capacity of 30 gigabytes (90 gigabytes with 3:1 compression) with the 3590 High Performance Cartridge or a native capacity of 60 gigabytes (180 gigabytes with 3:1 compression) with the 3590 Extended High Performance Cartridge.

The new 3590 drives are now on the market and upgrades from current B or E models to H models are expected to become available as of July 26th.

Pricing on the tape drive products starts at around $30,000 (as per FICON channel) and goes up depending on the amount of VTS disk cache the customer wants installed. Packages for upgrading to the newer VTS featues start at $5,000.