Tape Storage Sees The Second Light Of Day

High-capacity drives, integration, and compatibility cause managers to look again
Tape drives seem like yesterday's technology. But the ever-increasing amount of data flowing through companies' IT systems, combined with the growing importance of backup, recovery, and business continuity, has many business-technology managers taking another look at tape storage. What they see is a technology that continues to provide capacity, performance, and reliability at a very low cost.

Intense competition is making the technology even more attractive. Market leader Quantum Corp. this week will unveil two high-capacity tape drives and, by next summer, the ability to manage its high-end and low-end drives from the same interface. The new drives, which use Quantum's Super DLT format, are compatible with the vendor's DLT drives. The Super DLT 320 drive, starting around $4,000, can hold 160 Gbytes of data and deliver that data at 32 Mbytes per second; it ships this week. The Super DLT 600 drive, due in the summer, promises tighter integration with applications and servers because Quantum will create all the necessary interfaces and drivers itself. By summer of 2004, the vendor plans to ship drives that can transfer data at rates of more than 200 Mbytes per second. That's equivalent to the fastest Fibre Channel drives.

Jim Prevo, VP and CIO at Green Mountain Coffee, says the Super DLT 320 tape drive has let him consolidate his data storage and reduce management chores. Each night, Green Mountain backs up about 400 Gbytes of data from Microsoft, Oracle, and PeopleSoft applications, as well as the main file server. "I had to use four tape drives before," says Prevo. "I get the same performance on a single 320 drive now, so we have much less tape handling than we used to have."

The new drives should prove popular because they're compatible with systems already in use, IDC analyst Robert Amatruda says. "Customers have already invested a lot in the data and the media," he says, "so it's critical to give customers access to it all from the new drives."

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