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ATL acquisition bears fruit with new tape library

Quantum/ATL, a unit of Quantum Corp.'s DLT and Storage Systems Group, has unveiled a new, modular tape library. The rack-mountable M1500 is the first new product to come from the company since its acquisition of M4 Data (Holdings) Ltd., a privately held data storage company based in the United Kingdom.

The M1500, which looks more like a stereo than a tape library, packs 800G Bytes of native storage capacity into only seven inches or 4 rack units (4U) of space. The library features two drives with hot-swappable magazines that hold ten tape cartridges each.

ATL is pointing to the M1500's high-density and scalability as the product's selling points. The M1500 scales by adding additional libraries and stacking them one on top of another, up to 10 drives in each stack. A configuration of 10 libraries operating in a single rack boasts a storage capacity of 16T Bytes and throughput from 21.6G Bytes/hr native to 864G Bytes/hr using 20 DLT8000 drives with 2:1 data compression.

"This is the result of the acquisition of M4 Data, the genesis of that relationship," said Gary Brenkman, director of product marketing for ATL. Brenkman said that the M1500, the smallest library to hold 20 cartridges, is aimed at dot-com companies and Internet Service Providers that cannot easily plan for future storage capacity. The M1500 "fills the storage gaps" by providing a self-configuring upgrade in increments of 800G Bytes.

The density and management features of the M1500 are raising some eyebrows in the analyst community. "It packs the most density, by far, of any comparative library," said Steve Duplessie, storage analyst for the Milford, Mass.-based Enterprise Storage Group. The ability to control an overall stack of M1500 libraries as one logical unit also drew praise. "[It's a] brilliant design. If they can execute, and I think they can, OEMs and end-users will fall in love with this technology."

The new libraries represent the first combination of M4's robotics technology and ATL's existing library know-how. Each unit has separate, independent robotics ensuring that a single module failure does not impact the rest of the library stack; all units continue to operate and cartridges can continue to be passed among working units.

The inner workings of the library feature tri-axial robotics that are small and do not take up a lot of space. "We redesigned elements of the M1500 to make it compatible with LTO (Linear Tape Open) and SDLT (SuperDLTtape) and we made other technology improvements," Brenkman said. "This is the result of the acquisition of M4 Data, it's the genesis of that relationship." The robotics technology that M4 had developed includes a picker mechanism that operates in a way which reduces the necessary amount space for the libraries internal functions, thereby making the M1500 a smaller box (it is a full 1U smaller than Hewlett-Packard's SureStore tape library).

Duplessie predicts that if the technology passes muster in the field, it will dominate ATL's product line below the P3000 in the very near future.

An independent module called StackLink integrates multiple units and can move cartridges directly from one module to another within three seconds. With StackLink, multiple units function as a single, integrated library with media movement among all libraries and tape drives. " There's no master or slave in the stack. Can operate any library in the stack from any other library," said Brenkman.

Other features of the M1500 include hot-swappable, hot-pluggable tape drives; a barcode reader; a dedicated cleaning tape slot and automatic tape cleaning without operator intervention; and a five-cartridge "mail-slot" for loading and unloading cartridges without interrupting overall library operation.

List pricing for the M1500 starts at $19,995 for a 20-cartridge unit with a single DLT8000 tape drive, available for shipping in late February.

ATL plans M1500's with LTO and SDLT support to ship next quarter. The company said that it is taking a conservative approach toward rolling out support for the new tape formats to iron out any kinks with the new technology and avoid having to redesign or retrofit libraries in the field.

The LTO model is expected to fit 24 cartridges into the same amount of space as the 20 cartridge SDLT and DLT libraries.

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

For more information:

Quantum buys UK tape company

Quantum/ATL's homepage

SearchStorage Best Storage Web Links for automated tape libraries

Dig Deeper on Tape backup and tape libraries

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