Tape Library Vendors Add Fibre Channel Routers

Storage area networks (SANs) are coming, and in preparation for widespread SAN deployment tape library vendors are adding Fibre Channel to their products.

Two of the biggest tape library vendors, Exabyte Corp. (www.exabyte.com) and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek, www.storagetek.com), added Fibre Channel functionality to their tape libraries last month.

Both companies added a cavity to their libraries that enables the Fibre Channel routers to reside within the library.

StorageTek placed the router in its new Aegis family of libraries, beginning with the L180 and L700 tape libraries. The enterprise-class L700 provides capacity of up to 27.6 TB and up to 12, 9840 drives or 20 DLT/SuperDLT drives. It also is ready to support up to 20 Ultrium drives. The midrange L180 ships with up to 7 TB capacity, up to 10 DLT drives, and up to 174 usable slots. Both libraries are targeted at the Unix and Windows NT markets.

StorageTek’s Aegis-based library family will support the company’s new 9840 tape drive, which features a Fibre Channel interface. The Fibre Channel 9840 drive is a key component of the company’s Fibre Channel libraries.

Gary Francis, vice president of strategic marketing at StorageTek, says end-to-end Fibre Channel tape solutions deliver new capabilities to customers, such as distance extension and drive sharing across many Unix and Windows NT servers.

"We’ll be scaling this family upwards as well as downwards, so you’ll see several new products in the future," Francis says.

Exabyte added a Fibre Channel router to its X80 and X200 Mammoth Tape libraries. "Our offering is not that much different from StorageTek’s in terms of the router cavity," says Tim Weir, senior product marketing manager at Exabyte. "We’ll eventually offer native Fibre Channel without the need for or cost of a router."

Exabyte designed the X80 MammothTape technology to deliver the highest reliability and scalability to large application servers and storage networks. This high rack-density tape library uses Mammoth-2 (M2) and integrates into SAN and Fibre Channel architectures.

Exabyte’s SAN-ready X80 automated library offers 12 TB capacity and 864 GB per hour transfer rate. The SAN-ready X200 automated library transfers 1 TB of data in an hour. The X200 offers 30 TB of capacity.

The X80 and X200 M2 libraries ship with Web-enabled, Java-based, out-of-band management capabilities. These features, along with Fibre Channel options, enable the SAN-ready tape libraries to work with leading ISV applications for providing remote manageability in a network-attached environment for SANs and network attached storage (NAS) architectures.

Advanced Digital Information Corp. (ADIC, www.adic.com) also added Fibre Channel to its line of OpenSAN products last month, including the company’s tape libraries.

All these companies say the pairing of Fibre Channel with tape libraries will expand tape’s role from direct-attached to more scalable SAN environments. Further, Fibre Channel SANs are accelerating the position of data storage as an e-business solution and driving demand for the new libraries.

The companies also claim that their solutions, in one form or another, enhance the management of SANs.

"Fibre Channel connectivity will facilitate network management of the tape automation process," says Bob Amatruda, senior analyst, tape and removable storage, at IDC (www.idc.com).