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StorageTek ships PowderHorn replacement

The PowderHorn tape library dies later this year, but can StorageTek's latest library fill the void?

After 17 years as Storage Technology Corp.'s flagship tape system, the massive PowderHorn library's aging architecture is nearing the end of its life. In an effort to fill the void, the company this week began shipping PowderHorn's successor and StorageTek's newest automated tape product, the StreamLine SL8500.

The SL8500 scales from 1,448 to more than 300,000 cartridge slots, while taking up less space than its predecessor. A base configuration of this product will cost approximately $200,000, plus the cost of drives.

The StreamLine has a few new features that weren't part of PowderHorn's design. For example, users can replace broken robotics or add cartridge slots without bringing the system down. The SL8500 also supports mixed media and drives, including StorageTek's T9840C, T9940B, LTO and SDLT.

StorageTek needs to transition customers off of the PowderHorn, and it can be a slow and painful process.
Robert Amatruda
Research Manager International Data Corp.

"PowderHorn was kind of expensive at the smaller size and cheaper at the higher size. The SL8500 will be more expensive than buying a used PowderHorn, but if you compare them to new, the SL8500 gives you better price performance," said Tom Wultich, Louisville, Colo.-based StorageTek's senior product marketing manager for automated tape solutions.

Wultich said the SL8500 can save users money by allowing them to consolidate multiple libraries into one system. "By consolidating multiple libraries into a larger library, you can save on maintenance efficiencies and floor space. It's easier to manage one library than it is to manage several, and costs much less in terms of operator labor requirements," he said.

Despite the fact that tape sales are on the rise, there's no guarantee that StorageTek will have instant success with the StreamLine SL8500. The company will first have to overcome stiff competition and expand its user base.

"Never under estimate IBM's ability to exploit any possible StorageTek missteps. IBM is very focused on regaining share in the enterprise tape market," said Robert Amatruda, a research manager for International Data Corp.'s tape and removable storage team.

And, if StorageTek wants to make a splash with the StreamLine product, Amatruda said the company needs to expand its customer base. "StorageTek needs to transition customers off of the PowderHorn, and it can be a slow and painful [process]," he said. "The SL8500 needs to be embraced by new large customers, instead of reselling StorageTek's [existing] customers."

StorageTek is expected to stop building new PowderHorn systems by year's end. The company is also finalizing a timetable for when it will stop servicing the PowderHorn.

For more information:

EMC and StorageTek get friendly? Tape sales up as IT spending improves

StorageTek's PowderHorn nears end of life

StorageTek halts ILM trademark effort

Dig Deeper on Tape backup and tape libraries

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