ADIC Replaces Disk with Tape in NAS Appliances

REDMOND, Wash. -- Advanced Digital Information Corp. (ADIC, www.adic.com) will announce April 17 what it claims are the first network-attached storage (NAS) devices to use tape as a storage medium.

By using tape instead of disk, these devices are expected to extend the use of NAS, offer a higher-capacity solution, and bring down prices considerably.

ADIC will introduce three StorNext models. The workgroup version offers from 950 to 1,900 GB, the enterprise solution provides 3.95 to 7.9 TB, and the data center system starts at 11.8 TB and can support up to 23.6 TB of capacity.

The three devices are the first products that combine ADIC’s traditional hardware expertise with some of the software abilities it recently acquired.

ADIC bills these StorNext devices as a means to bring NAS technology to applications where it isn’t used. Bryce Hein, product marketing manager for StorNext, says the new devices are designed to be used as data repositories for applications such as e-mail, CAD/CAM, engineering source code, and large graphic-intensive programs.

The NAS devices, combined with automated tape storage, enable administrators to keep infrequently accessed files available to users from a variety of platforms, yet removed from active disk resources. The appliances reduce data bottlenecks and potentially cut backup time because there is no need to backup data that hasn’t been altered.

Data can be accessed or altered from StorNext appliances via Windows, Unix, or Web clients, based on administrator-established permissions. The systems support up to 236 separate network volumes or file systems and can manage up to 25 million files.

One drawback to tape is that it is considerably slower than using disk; about 100 times slower.

Steve Duplessie, analyst at the market research firm Enterprise Storage Group (www.enterprisestoragegroup.com), says ADIC’s solution is slower than disk, but considerably faster than storing data offline somewhere.

"If you need it to be OLTP data, you’d better not put it on a tape drive," he says. "But there are plenty of applications that [ADIC’s system] is perfect for."

Exchange data is one such application. Rather than deleting all messages after a specified time period, as many companies do, old messages can be stored near-line with the ADIC solution. Here the messages can be accessed in about a minute, ADIC’s Hein says.

Duplessie points out that it is really only slower to read the data; writing will be fine because it is initially written to a disk anyway.

"The biggest advantage is that it’s considerably cheaper," he says.

According to Hein the average cost for 200 GB of NAS disk is $50,000. For that same amount, ADIC sells 5 TB of storage space in the form of tape and a StorNext device.

The cost per megabyte of these systems ranges from one penny to four or five pennies, depending on the volume purchased. According to ADIC, a similar offering that uses disk would cost an average of 25 cents more per megabyte.

David Uvelli, executive director of software marketing at ADIC, says using tape for storage has the advantages of tape not crashing and lasting a long time.

"It’s clearly not intended to compete with Network Appliance, but I think it will find a home," Duplessie says.