Enterprise Storage<br>New Storage Products Offer Reliability, Speed

IT professionals tend to leave thoughts of data restoration in the back of their minds: It is not a pleasant experience. New developments in storage from Quantum Corp. (www.quantum.com) and Exabyte Corp. (www.exabyte.com), however, may make the future a little bit brighter.

Quantum plans to release its SuperDLT, the successor to its DLT tape storage system, in the second quarter of this year. SuperDLT is expected to become the flagship product for Quantum.

"SuperDLT is scalable for up to eight product generations," says Phil Treide, manager of product marketing at Quantum.

Like DLT, SuperDLT uses half-inch magnetic tape with a linear recording pattern, but a new optical tracking mechanism sets SuperDLT apart from its predecessor. An optical track is recorded on the back side of the tape which is read by a laser, keeping the tape on the head. As a result, the normal up and down movement of the tape is reduced, allowing a greater width of tape to be used. "When we can use more of the tape, we can store more data on the same tape," Treide says.

The tape's increased accuracy will permit greater numbers of narrower bands to be placed on the same width of tape, increasing the capacity exponentially. SuperDLT will remain backward compatible with previous generations of DLT, although the older tapes will be unable to take advantage of optical tracking.

The first generation of SuperDLT will hold up to 100 GB with a transfer rate of 10 MB per second. These tape drives offer hardware error correction and compression technology that halves the size of data.

Quantum is expected to remain an enterprise tape storage leader, but there is space for competition, according to Bob Abraham, president of Freeman Reports Inc. (www.freemanreports.com): "The pie will get a little bit bigger," as the NT segment expands.

Exabyte (www.exabyte.com) began shipping its Mammoth-2 (M2) tape drives in late 1999. The successor to Mammoth, the new product also uses 8 mm tape with a helical scan pattern. Mammoth-2 introduces Advanced Metal Evaporate (AME) media, which allows more precise recording, due to its finer media, which is less volatile.

In addition, M2 has a self-cleaning mechanism that makes the system faster and more reliable, according to the company. "Before, when a drive needed to be cleaned, the system was stopped and a cleaning cartridge was inserted. Now the drive cleans itself," says Greg Mangold, product manager for Exabyte. The tape includes a cleaning area at the front that the drive accesses when it detects a need for cleaning.

M2 boasts a 60 GB storage capacity with a 12 MB storage rate. "That translates into 43 [GB] an hour, a number more relevant to user’s needs," Mangold says.

Like SuperDLT, M2 hardware incorporates error correction and compression technology.

Exabyte and other manufacturers plan to incorporate M2 into their automated libraries.

A third factor that may brighten the future of enterprise-level backups is the Linear Tape Open (LTO, www.lto.org) standard. The standard was created by a consortium of hardware manufacturers that includes IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., and Seagate Technology Inc. LTO is composed of two individual standards: Ultrium, geared toward high-capacity backups, and Accelis, designed to store and retrieve data at high speeds.

"Previously, there have been no dominant open tape propositions," says Steven Barens, director of OEM tape products at IBM (www.ibm.com) and a spokesman for LTO. Instead, individual vendors were riding a wave of dominance in the tape market.

LTO is pushing for intercompatibility between vendors offering both media and hardware. According to Barens, LTO’s strength lies in assuring customers that they will not be subject to the whims of companies arguing over the shape of a plastic case. The group set up an independent body to test compliance with LTO standards.

LTO has adopted half-inch linear scan tape for its drives. When released, the Ultrium standard will call for 100 GB native at a rate of 10 MB per second. Accelis will require 25 GB, with a similar transfer rate. Like SuperDLT and M2, the standard will require compression and error-correction utilities.

In addition, automated libraries and archives were a consideration in designing the LTO standard.

LTO has been designed to support a variety of computer systems, including Windows NT. "LTO has been quite clear in identifying that NT is an important market," Abraham says.

Barens agrees, saying, "NT is the fastest growing market segment in the industry."