Storage Product of the Year -- StorageTek T9940B

Storage peripherals may not be the most compelling of IT products, but they are necessary nonetheless. With that in mind, Datamation voters chose the T9940B tape drive from StorageTek as the Product of the Year for Storage.
Storage peripherals may not be the most compelling of IT products, but they are necessary nonetheless. With that in mind, Datamation voters chose the T9940B tape drive from StorageTek as the Product of the Year for Storage.

The T9940B edged out Brocade Communications Systems' SilkWorm 3900 Fabric Switch for the top slot. Other finalists were Network Appliance's NetApp F880 series, FalconStor Technologies' IPStor 3.5 and ATAboy2 from Nexsan Technologies.

The worldwide tape drive storage market was just under $2 billion last year -- and it's not going to decrease anytime soon, says Robert Amatruda, a research manager at International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.

"There's a lot of people who talk about tape going away because of things like disk drives and other storage media," Amatruda says. "However, the important thing to know about tape is it's a high value-add storage product," especially for people who resell it.

StorageTek has had a "very rich history in the tape storage market," Amatruda says, and has had a very strong share position with its T9X40 family of products over the last two years. This family represents an extension of a key tape technology that StorageTek has had excellent success with in the marketplace, he says. In 2002, StorageTek ranked third overall among enterprise tape vendors with about a 17% revenue share worldwide, according to IDC.

In terms of what IDC defines as enterprise tape drive volume, the company held a 61% share in 2002, Amatruda says.

Users say the appeal is easy to understand. The T9940B is one of highest-capacity tape drives on the market today, says Bob Massengill, manager of technical services at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, N.C., who is using 10 of the drives installed in a 9310 powderhorn tape library. Massengill says they are backing up a combination of about 250 UNIX and NT servers.

The T990B, he says, has "one of the highest capacities on the market. We were having some media failures and I needed high-availability media tape technology. On our old system, when we tried to restore files or data set from tape, many times our tapes had bad spots either due to bad media or the tape itself failed."

The data includes patient records, radiology images, database backups diagnostic neurology and research data -- all the data produced within the approximately 12,000-bed medical center.

After looking at several different tape vendors, including IBM and Sun, the deciding factor was that StorageTek "was the only one that offered an enterprise solution for size I needed."

The increased speed and capacity the T9940B provides has reduced the medical center's backup window, says Massengill.

"They're much faster than our older drives, so that means our systems are available to the department we're backing up for quicker," he says. "When we go to do their backup, they have to quiet their systems and stop their application use so the speed has reduced that downtime."

Capacity has also been reduced. They went from 20 gigabytes of storage capacity in the previous tape library to 200 gigs for uncompressed data, according to Massengill.

"Speed, reliability and capacity are the greatest bonuses with 9940B," he says.

Big on Brocade

Pete Rothers, product capability manager at retail giant Best Buy, in Richfield, Minn., is a new user of the SilkWorm 3900 Fabric Switch and is in the process of installing 12. He says they have used the Brocade family of fabric switches for a long time, so he was comfortable moving to the 3900 series when he wanted to increase port density. The 3900 has double the number of ports (32) over the 3800, which holds 16.

"A big design constraint is the number of physical switches per fabric," says Rothers.

The switch is "seamless and it integrates well with the existing Brocade products," he says. Rothers adds that he likes how the additional capacity had no operational impact.

"Common to all Brocade's switches is they allow you to trunk together multiple connections to increase bandwidth," he explains.

The biggest functionality of the 3900 is a new feature called hot code load, which allows the software running on the switch to be updated without interrupting operations. Previously, updates required a traffic outage on that switch.

"The other thing for us is the peer port density," says Rothers.

The "level of partnership they brought to the table" also set Brocade apart from other fabric switch vendors, he says.

"They helped during the design phase of the build out of the fabric and they've helped remediate issues during the operational phase as well," Rothers says.

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