IBM Debuts Speedy Tape Drives

IBM debuted its TotalStorage 3580 tape drive Tuesday with a machine that pipes data up to 80 megabytes per second. The company called it nearly 20 percent faster than the fastest machine from rival Certance.

For a practical example of what 80MBps can provide, the linear tape-open
(LTO) drive can back up more than five million telephone book entries in
three seconds, said Charlie Andrews, director of tape marketing, IBM

Andrews told the new drive is part of the IBM
TotalStorage Generation 3 LTO family. LTO is an open standard for tape
drives created by IBM, HP and Certance as an alternative to Quantum’s DLT

IBM competes with HP and Certance, which is being acquired by Quantum, in the LTO space. This leaves IBM and HP to go head to head with Quantum in the mid-range tape drive market, a niche IDC expects to top $947 million by 2008.

Andrews said the Generation 3 family of LTO drives offers significant
improvements over the Armonk, N.Y., company’s Generation 2 products. For
example, the 3850 consumes less power than previous tape offerings from IBM,
because it employs electronics based on copper-based chips.

Generation 3 offers 38 percent more tracks, 100 percent more internal
buffer and 100 percent more physical cartridge capacity, enabling the
storage of up to 800 gigabytes of data on a single LTO 3 cartridge. The
extra capacity should come in handy at a time when the mass of unstructured
data continues to grow on networks.

Future products in Generation 3 drives will feature Fibre Channel
connectivity, as well as Write Once, Read Many (WORM)
functionality to support regulatory compliance requirements.

Andrews said IBM also introduced on Tuesday the IBM TotalStorage T800 and T800F tape
drives. Available in both SCSI and Fibre Channel versions, the drives are
geared to be integrated by original equipment manufacturers (OEM) customers
into their servers, desktop models and tape automation.

All three of the new drives, which will be sold by IBM and its OEM partners,
will hit the street Dec. 17. The 3580 will retail for about $6,500 while
the OEMs will set their own prices for the machines they sell.

Sometimes criticized for its performance by champions of disk-based storage,
tape-based storage remains a viable medium at a time when clients are
looking for complete, balanced information lifecycle management
suites. It’s also generally less expensive than disk storage.

A strategy for managing data from the time of their inception
until they are ready for deletion, ILM is something EMC, IBM, HP and
StorageTek have been pushing.

The market opportunity is clear: Customers are increasingly looking to
corral data at a time when record retention rules, such as Sarbanes-Oxley,
HIPAA and SEC 17a-4, reign. Many analysts have said businesses should employ
both tape and disk-based storage for effective ILM.

While not as much of a revenue producer as IBM’s Enterprise Storage Server,
tape storage makes up an integral part of IBM’s storage business because
customers use the medium for data archival, business continuity and
regulatory compliance.

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