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StorageTek targets zSeries users with FICON tape library

StorageTek announced availability of the "fast access" T9840B tape drive with a native FICON interface for the latest high-throughput IBM zSeries servers.

It goes without saying that the top tape supplier for IBM Corp.'s zSeries server customers is none other than IBM, but Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek), has high hopes that adding Fibre Connectivity (FICON) to its T9840B tape drives will give the company an edge in the small but lucrative zSeries customer base.

Louisville, Colo.-based StorageTek on Monday announced availability of the "fast access" T9840B tape drive with a native FICON interface for the latest high-throughput IBM zSeries server. The company said the new FICON interface lets the T9840B tape drives deliver more than double the throughput of ESCON drives, offering a data access rate of 12 seconds for an average load and search, and more than 100 kilometers of long-distance connectivity.

According to the online technical dictionary, FICON is "a high-speed input/output (I/O) interface for mainframe computer connections to storage devices. FICON channels increase I/O capacity through the combination of a new architecture and faster physical link rates to make them up to eight times as efficient as ESCON (Enterprise System Connection), IBM's previous fiber optic channel standard."

StorageTek's corporate vice president and general manager, Gary Francis, said that adapting its high-end, half-inch drive technology for the zSeries underscores the company's commitment and ability to anticipate and adapt to the connectivity needs of its customers.

StorageTek's T9840B features a dual port option to enable two active paths to each drive and can be directly attached to Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) equipment for better throughput and cost-effective transmission to remote locations over fiber optic networks, StorageTek said.

This is not the first time StorageTek has produced a FICON-enabled tape library, but Bob Abraham, president and senior analyst at Freeman Reports, in Ojai, Calif., said the purpose of this upgrade is to give the company better performance, specifically for the IBM zSeries server market.

"Adding FICON connectivity to [the T9840B tape drive] gives them an enabling technology to move into the zSeries market, where they didn't compete before," Abraham said.

As one would imagine, IBM dominates the zSeries market when it comes to tape, but Abraham said StorageTek's library has the ability to access files on a tape much faster than Big Blue's offerings.

Ordinarily, when you load a tape cartridge, you could be at the middle of the tape and have to rewind to the beginning before accessing the needed data. StorageTek's technology recognizes the location of the data and does not need to return to the beginning of the cartridge. "It cuts file access time essentially in half. You've got half as far to go. This is a key advantage of StorageTek's device," Abraham said.

He said that, despite IBM's dominance of the zSeries tape customer base, StorageTek's addition of FICON connectivity to the T9840B gives the vendor a powerful technological edge and competitive advantage.

StorageTek's T9840B tape drive with native FICON interface is planned for worldwide availability this month. The U.S. list price is $38,000 for a new tape drive and $15,000 for conversions to installed T9840B ESCON drives.

Let us know what you think about the story. E-mailKevin Komiega, News Writer

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