New WORM Technology Makes Its Way to the iSeries
March 30, 2004 Alex Woodie
New federal laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act are creating demand for storage technology known as write once, read many (WORM), which helps to ensure the integrity of data. WORM technology has traditionally been delivered on the OS/400 platform via expensive optical disks, and there will be a new WORM-capable optical drive available with OS/400 V5R3. But increasingly, tape vendors, such as Sony, are responding to the call of the WORM with cost-effective, tape-based WORM solutions.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act isn’t the only new law with new data-retention guidelines for companies to follow. There’s a slew of new laws–among them are the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Patriot Act, and the FDA’s 21 CFR Part 11–governing how private and public companies alike must store their data. Although the laws don’t mandate it by name, WORM is really the best way to prove that your archives remain unaltered and true, especially when it comes to Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance.
“You can’t cook the books with WORM,” says David Breisacher, founder of tape drive provider GST, based in Lake Forest, California. “You can, but you’ll be caught on the back end.” GST last week introduced its Compliance Initiative, and is publishing a new white paper entitled “Current Compliance Issues for Storage Professionals,” which includes a thorough listing of new laws and their impact on storage technology and practices.
GST is pushing its Advanced Intelligence Tape (AIT) line of Sony tape drives for WORM, but there are a few other options available to OS/400 shops.
NO MO’ WORM
For years, companies have relied on magneto optical (MO) drives for WORM storage. IBM offered AS/400 and iSeries connectivity to its 3995 Optical Library, which was manufactured by its OEM partner Plasmon. When OS/400 V5R3 ships later this year, IBM and Plasmon will be able to offer OS/400 shops the new Ultra Density Optical (UDO) technology that Plasmon has developed. Based on new blue-laser technology, UDO will be able to store up to 30 GB of data on a single 5.25-inch removable disk, far more than the 5.2 GB limit of the older MO drives. This solution will scale up dramatically with Plasmon’s G-Series robotic library.
Because of the expected cost, however, it is doubtful that many midmarket OS/400 shops will employ UDO for their WORM storage needs. Optical storage gained popularity as a nearline storage alternative to disk, but with the drop in the cost of disk (which makes for an expensive WORM platform), as well as the increase in the data access rate of tape, optical technology has failed to grow its share of the storage market, according to industry insiders. Tape is looked upon as a more cost-effective solution.
WORM FOR TAPE
The problem is that, today, there are very few WORM-capable tape drives available in the market. This is true for all platforms, not just the iSeries. But it should change by the end of the year. The only two tape drive vendors offering WORM capabilities are Sony, with its AIT line, and StorageTek, with its 9840 and 9940 line of IBM Magstar clone drives.
Sony delivered WORM capabilities in its AIT2 and AIT3 tape drives last year, and also supports WORM with its newer Super AIT (sAIT) drives. OEM versions of Sony’s AIT drives are available to OS/400 shops from GST and Irvine, California, based eStorage, both of which add their own controllers to make the drives compatible with OS/400.
As part of GST’s new Compliance Initiative, it is offering a line of WORM-enabled AIT and sAIT drives, autoloaders, and libraries in various configurations and price points. GST’s Breisacher says that optical WORM storage has one advantage over tape: It’s faster to access random data. But the price and capacity advantages of tape-based WORM over optical more than make up for that advantage for most shops, he says. “Everybody’s looking at optical as yesterday’s technology,” Breisacher says. “Today, everybody’s looking at tape” for WORM capabilities. The WORM-enabled media is about 10 percent more expensive than the standard AIT or sAIT media, he says.
StorageTek’s 9840s (and more recently the new 9940) are enterprise tape drives for companies that need very fast access to data and large storage capacities. Unlike Sony’s WORM support with its AIT and sAIT drives (where the WORM-enabling technology changes were made to the drive itself), StorageTek’s WORM implementation has more to do with the type of media that is used. StorageTek’s VolSafe media interfaces with hierarchical storage management (HSM) products, such as Tivoli Storage Manager, and is platform-independent, says a representative with StorageTek, based in Louisville, Colorado.
IBM WORM OFFERINGS
IBM will soon be introducing its first tape-based WORM offering, with its 3592 tape drives, which compete along with StorageTek at enterprise accounts. These (non-WORM) drives were introduced last year as the next generation of the 3590 Magstar drives. Like StorageTek, IBM’s WORM implementation for the 3592, which should be available by mid-year, will have more to do with the particular media that’s used (although there is a firmware update that needs to be added to the drive itself). IBM’s media partner in the WORM initiative is FujiFilm, in Valhalla, New York.
Bruce Master, a senior program manager in IBM’s worldwide tape storage systems business, based in Tucson, Arizona, says the interest in tape-based WORM solutions is “definitely increasing.” “Customers are becoming more strategic and are planning to meet regulatory compliance initiatives, and are also retaining data [for themselves],” he says.
Last month IBM launched a disk-to-disk-based WORM storage solution, called the IBM TotalStorage Data Retention 450. The DR 450 includes a Power4-based server equipped with WORM-enabled ATA magnetic disks and Tivoli Storage Management for Data Retention software. The DR 450 runs the AIX operating system, but can be connected to iSeries servers and supports OS/400’s single-level-storage architecture, Master says. When connected with a WORM-capable 3592 drive, the DR 450 solution will make a slick one-two combination for near-line and long-term storage, starting at around $100,000 (add another $35,000 to $40,000 for the 3592).
LTO or SDLT WORM?
While most midrange OS/400 shops won’t be able to justify the expense of a 3592 enterprise tape drive, or the DR 450, there is hope yet for an IBM WORM solution for the midmarket. Master says there is talk at IBM of bringing WORM capabilities to the Linear Tape-Open (LTO) tape drive specification, which the company co-developed with Hewlett-Packard and Seagate (now called Certance) to compete against Quantum‘s successful Digital Linear Tape (DLT) line.
In fact, the word is that Quantum is also working to develop WORM capabilities for its DLT and Super DLT tape line. The big holdup with bringing WORM to LTO and SDLT is intellectual property and patent issues, says Rich Gadomski, a director of marketing with FujiFilm, the largest manufacturer of tape media and a neutral third-party supporter of all of these competing tape formats. “We’re hoping that some of the midrange tape offerings–LTO and SDLT–will soon be offering a WORM version,” Gadomski says. “I know that major manufacturers are working in that direction.”
Apparently, StorageTek and Sony hold patents describing how they provide WORM capability on their tape drives, and the LTO manufacturers and Quantum need to deal with their technology claims before introducing their own WORM offerings.