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Users eye StorageTek's 'big tape'

Users had mixed impressions of StorageTek's new Titanium 10000 tape drive unveiled at the user conference this week.

Sun Microsystems Inc. and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) announced their first joint product this week at StorageTek's annual Forum user conference, a new tape drive that offers faster throughput, higher native capacity and internal encryption capabilities.

The Titanium 10000, also known as the T10000, will eventually replace Sun's 9940 tape library. The new drives offer 120 MBps native throughput and 500 GB native capacity. With compression, performance speeds and capacity can double or triple, according to Dave Kenyon, director of tape automation for StorageTek.

Kenyon said the capacity of the T10000, already greater than the 9940 capacity of 200 GB, was expected to reach 1 terabyte as soon as next year. He said the drive would work with either Fibre Channel or FICON interfaces and could be managed remotely via an Ethernet port on the drive. Finally, he said, the drive has AES-256 encryption built in.

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"Titanium's speeds represent a quantum leap," said James Cates, director of tape drive development for StorageTek. "You get a far bigger data repository in a much smaller footprint."

"It looks promising," said Mehretab Berhe, manager of data center operations for Highmark, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. "As a health insurance company, we have huge amounts of data we have to keep for a long time, and thousands and thousands of tapes in data vaults and mines. These drives might give us the opportunity to put it all on one tape."

"We don't know much about it, except that it's big tape," said Mike Crowder, performance, tuning and technical assessment manager for Humana, a healthcare services company. "It could be good for long-term archiving, because of its size."

Crowder also said the T10000 offered what looked to be a significant improvement in bandwidth, something that appealed to him.

As for the security capabilities, according to James Meurer, storage manager for Aegon USA "Encryption is pretty big right now -- but how often am I really going to be mailing out 500 GB tapes?"

Meurer and Crowder agreed that capacity and throughput would be more significant factors for them in evaluating the Titanium than its encryption capabilities.

"It's not something we're going to jump on right away," said Bill Towers, storage infrastructure and services manager for the Anheuser-Busch Companies. Towers said he would stick with his 9840 tape libraries, which Sun had announced would see another generation despite the release of the Titanium.

"I wouldn't just have to add them in my main data center," he said. "I'd have to put them in at my DR [disaster recovery] facility also. It would be cost prohibitive."

Samuel Fleming, system analyst for storage management enterprise services with The Boeing Co., said he also was going to stick with his 9840 libraries. He added that the speeds were not enough to sell him on the new drives. "You can't write to it faster if you can't put the data through your server faster," he said. "We're not replacing our servers."

Fleming said the new drive's FICON interface was also an issue. "We're sticking with ESCON," he said. "It's less expensive."

Finally, "there's a lot of concern for us with so much data on those tapes," Fleming said. "If you lose one, you lose a lot of your data. That's too much risk."

At least one user, however, who declined to go on record but whose large company was involved this past year in a high-profile data loss, said he was waiting with baited breath for the Titanium's encryption capabilities. He said his company was currently using encryption capabilities within Veritas Software Corp.'s NetBackup software, but that they would prefer to see it in the tape hardware for performance reasons.

In fact, the user said, his company was so eager to jump on the Titanium that they were trying to be named as a beta tester for the product in January. "It's a matter of who's lucky enough to be the person chosen to do the test," the user said. "It remains to be seen if it'll go to us or our security department."

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