Sun Touts Tape, LTO 4 as Vital Data Center Technology

Sun's StorageTek lineup tackles enterprise archiving challenges with bigger capacities, speedier drives, massively scalable libraries and built-in encryption.
Posted December 10, 2007
By

Drew Robb

Drew Robb


It's only been a few months since Sun Microsystems Inc. of Santa Clara, CA, introduced support for the LTO 4 tape cartridge format. But already, the company has rolled out LTO 4 Fibre Channel (FC) drives across its complete suite of tape automation libraries: the StorageTek SL24, SL48, SL500, L1400, and SL8500.

"The LTO 4 FC Tape Drive delivers high capacity and increased performance for open systems environments," says Alex North, group manager for tape at Sun Microsystems. "This improves storage density in new or existing libraries and allows for easy upgrades to newer technology in the same automation footprint. We are seeing solid traction in the market and have outpaced our expectations."

At the high end of the Sun tape library portfolio stands the StorageTek SL8500 (PDF), with a starting price of $195,830. This modular library can accommodate up to 56 petabytes, or to put it another way, it can scale to 70,000 slots. In addition, it can be shared across multiple environments – this includes mainframe, Solaris, AS/400, Windows, Linux and many flavors of Unix. Not surprisingly, Sun positions it as the ideal platform for consolidating many smaller libraries into one high-performance system.

"We are seeing a lot of consolidation in the tape marketplace, which continues to drive double-digit annual revenue growth in our enterprise library, the Sun StorageTek SL8500," says North. "Additionally, there continues to be growing demand for high availability, which is driven in part from the consolidation that results in higher utilization of tape drives and thus 24x7 operation."

For those who don't need all that capacity and who have space constraints, the Sun StorageTek SL500 (starting at $16,400) is one alternative. Instead of being a colossus that takes up a ton of room, this is a rackmount tape automation model (i.e. it can slide into an existing rack). It only takes up a total of 8 rack units of space.

This library scales from 30 to 575 LTO slots and can deal with multiple cartridge types such as LTO and SDLT/DLT-S4. Its maximum capacity is around 460 terabytes (uncompressed) – more than enough for most needs. It can accommodate up to 18 tape drives with a maximum throughput of just over 7 terabytes per hour. Sun targets this machine at such applications as email servers, database applications and file servers.

"We are also seeing strong adoption of the scalable libraries in the distributed and small business space, as evidenced by continued growth of the SL500," says North.

StorageTek Tape Drives

Sun also offers a wide range of tape drives. For instance, Sun StorageTek LTO Tape Drives can store up to 800 gigabytes. The data on these drives can be moved at rates of 120 megabytes per second. When used with LTO 4 cartridges, the performance advantage over older formats is quite significant. For example, with LTO 3, it takes an average of 19 seconds to load and ready a tape – with the newer format, only 12 seconds. Other comparatives between LTO 3 and 4 on these tape drives are as follows: file access time for the first file down from 72 seconds average to 57 seconds; although it holds twice the capacity, LTO 4 takes an average of 54 seconds to rewind compared to 49 seconds for the previous generation; and data transfer rates have increased from 80 MB/sec to 120 MB/sec (uncompressed).

Encryption is another feature making its way into StorageTek tape technology. Sun StorageTek T10000 tape drive (PDF) is an example of a product that has software built in to encrypt your data. The T10000 pricing begins at $37,000.

"The StorageTek T10000 was launched in April 2006 and we continue to show strong growth in open systems," says North. "We expect to accelerate that in 2008 with the next generation T10000."

Sun is also intent on growing its mainframe drive business with the next generation of its T9840 platform. The T9840 will use the same media that was introduced in 1998, at higher capacities. Sun is doing this to allow existing customers to remain on that platform, thereby protecting their investment for a10-year period – an unusual and customer friendly move in this era of enforced upgrades to the latest and greatest.

"Most customers spend more on media than they do on the drives or library, so this investment protection that allows media re-use at the new higher capacities has huge customer value," says North.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.






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