GST Targets IBM with Internal AIT Tape Drives for i5 and p5
October 19, 2004 Alex Woodie
GST last week debuted its first internal tape drive that works in the new “Squadron” line of Power5-based eServers from IBM. GST claims that its new line of AIT drives, which install in the new i5 and p5 servers, offer better price performance than the internal tape drives that IBM sells with those servers. Could GST be offering a better deal than IBM? Let’s take a look at the numbers to see.
While GST previously offered internal drives on the iSeries, this is the first time that the Southern California company has supported the new i5 and p5 servers with the same drive. “Significant engineering went into this product to make it available for the i5 and p5,” says David Breisacher, chief executive and chairman of GST.
GST is now shipping three 3.5-inch AIT drives–AIT-1, AIT-2, and AIT-3–that install internally on the eServer i5/p5 Model 520 frame; the drives, which write to 8 mm media, can also be included in rack-mounted Model 550 and 570 servers.
The AIT-1 drive costs $1,750, supports a native capacity of 35 GB, and transfers data at a rate of 4 MB per second (MBps). The AIT-2 drive costs $2,150, supports a native cartridge capacity of 50 GB, and transfers data at a rate of 6 MBps. The AIT-3 drive costs $3,800, provides a native capacity of 100 GB, and transfers data at a rate of 12 MBps. All of the AIT drives provide 2.6-to-1 compression, while the AIT-2 and AIT-3 generation drives also support the write once, read many (WORM) data integrity capability required by some new Federal laws.
Now let’s take a look at IBM’s internal tape drives. The VXA-2 tape drive, an 8 mm model that IBM OEM’s from Exabyte, costs $2,495, supports a native cartridge capacity of 80 GB, and transfers data at a rate of 6 MBps. The SLR60 internal tape drive, which IBM OEM’s from Tandberg Data, costs $4,000, supports a native cartridge capacity of 30 GB, and transfers data at a rate of 4 MBps. The SLR100 costs $6,000, supports a native cartridge capacity of 50 GB, and transfers data at a rate of 6 MBps. These three IBM drives each support compression at a rate of 2-to-1, and none of them supports WORM.
There are several areas where the two technologies are quite comparable. In terms of mean time between failure (MTBF) ratings, all six drives offered by the two companies command a MTBF of 300,000 hours, except for the AIT-3 drive, which is rated to 400,000 hours. In terms of media archive life, the AIT and VXA-2 drives both are designed to withstand 30 years, while the SLR media is only rated to 20 years. Both Tandberg and Sony are still investing in their respective SLR and AIT lines, and each three generations left.
In terms of price-performance, the AIT drives that GST OEM’s from Sony (and them customizes with its own LCD operator panel and microcode) are clear leaders compared with IBM’s internal drives. Media cost was no comparison whatsoever, with the AIT media costs between $55 and $62 per cartridge; whereas the SLR and VXA-2 media was two to three times that when purchased from IBM. “It kills IBM in price/performance over their internal SLR and VXA offerings,” Breisacher says.
The 10-function LCD operator panel that GST includes on its AIT drives is another clear differentiator for GST. The drive shows the operator how much space, in uncompressed MB, there is on the drive, which gives the operator an idea of how much longer a backup will take and whether the tape has reached its limit.
Other items the LCD panel tells the operator include whether there is media present in the drive; whether the drive is currently reading or writing, or whether ready for operation; if there is a need for a head cleaning procedure; whether a drive is being loaded or unloaded; and whether it is in position for a read, or if it is rewinding.