IBM Rolls Out LTO 4 Tape Drives and Libraries
May 1, 2007 Alex Woodie
IBM last week announced its first tape products built on the Linear Tape Open (LTO) generation 4 specification, including a new standalone drive, a new high-end drive featuring Fibre Channel interfaces, and four new or improved tape libraries providing scalability into the petabyte range. With the new LTO 4 spec, Big Blue is taking security quite seriously. IBM also announced a new virtual tape library.
The LTO format has come on strong to become the top-selling tape drive format, besting the competing DLT, SDLT, and AIT enterprise formats. With 800 GB of native capacity per cartridge and data transfer rates up to 120 MB per second, the LTO 4 drives feature twice the capacity of the LTO 3 drives, and a 50 percent improvement in data speeds. Another common element to all LTO 4 is backward compatibility. All LTO 4 drives can read and write LTO 3 cartridges, and can read LTO 2 cartridges (but can’t write to them). It’s probably not wise to try loading a first-generation LTO cartridge into an LTO 4 drive.
IBM, which, along with Hewlett-Packard and Seagate, is one of the founders of the LTO consortium, has put its own little spin on its new LTO 4 gear. It has to do with the security. Namely, IBM says it has borrowed the encryption capability it built into new TS1120 tape drives (of the 3592 class of drives, descendent of the “Magstar” line) unveiled last year, and applied that to the new LTO 4 drives. This means that users can compress and encrypt data on the drive, with virtually no impact on drive performance, and check it for errors on-the-fly, according to IBM. This will be available through a new release of IBM’s Encryption Key Manager, a Java application that IBM includes in its Java Virtual Machine distributions, that will ship June 15.
IBM’s high-end LTO 4 drive is the new TS1040, which features a 4 Gbps Fibre Channel interface and is designed to mount in the TS3500 library (see below) and the 3584 library. Like other LTO 4 products, the TS1040 supports IBM’s Encryption Key Manager. The drive shipped April 27, and carries a suggested price of $22,800. (No that’s not a typo.
Companies looking to spend a little less on their LTO 4 gear (and avoid Fibre Channel) will want to wait until IBM ships the TS2340 tape drive, the entry point into IBM’s LTO 4 gear. The TS2340 functions as a standalone or rack-mountable drive that connects to servers via SCSI interface or 3 GBps Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) interfaces. Like all of IBM’s LTO 4 gear, this drive works with System i (i5/OS V5R3 or later), System x, System z, System p, and all non-IBM Unix, Linux, and Windows servers. It ships May 25 with a suggested price of $5,170 for the SCSI connection (model L43) and $5,681 for the SAS connection (model S43), which is about the same amount IBM charged for LTO 3 gear in the past.
IBM also announced two LTO 4 tape libraries, the TS3100 and the TS3200. The TS3100 is a 2U device that supports one LTO 4 drive (your choice of Fibre Channel, SCSI, or SAS connectivity) and 24 cartridge slots, giving it a native capacity of 19.2 TB (double that with compression). The TS3200 is basically two TS3100s, providing double the capacity. Both models support encryption and write once, write many (WORM) functionality. The devices become available starting in June. Half-height and Xccelerator and HVEC models of the TS3100 and TS3200 are also available. Base pricing for the TS3100 ranges from $9,737 to $14,770 depending on the customer’s choice of a SCSI, SAS, or Fibre Channel LTO 4 drive. Pricing for the TS3200 ranges from $13,242 to $18,275.
LTO 4 drives are also being used in the TS3310 Tape Library, which was first unveiled in October 2005. The TS3310 starts with the Model L5B base unit, a 5U device that holds two LTO 4 (Fibre Channel or SAS) or LTO 3 drives and has 30 cartridge slots. When users are ready to expand, they can add the Model E9U expansion units, each of which can hold up to four LTO 3 or LTO 4 drives and more than 90 cartridge slots. Companies can string up to four of these E9U expansion units to a single L5B base unit, for up to 321.6 TB of capacity. Pricing for the TS3310 library starts at $16,530.
When more scalability is needed, users can move up to the TS3500, an enterprise-size tape library that now uses the new high-end TS1040 drive (see above), in addition to IBM’s TS1030 LTO 3 drive and its proprietary TS1120 drive (Magstar format). The TS3500 is a big, honking piece of equipment designed for the most demanding enterprise environments. Its L53 base frame supports up to 287 cartridge slots and up to 12 LTO 4 tape drives, giving it 230 TB of native capacity. While that sounds like a pile of data, it’s only chicken feed when you consider you can add up to 15 expansion frames to the L53 base, each of which holds up to 440 LTO cartridges and 12 LTO 4 drives, providing storage capacity well into the petabyte range.
WIBM also announced the TS7520, a virtual tape library that emulates tape drives and libraries, but stores data on SATA disk for faster data transfer capabilities. As the follow-on to the TS7510, the TS7520 features improved caching, new encryption and compression capabilities, support for the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) for providing network attached storage (NAS), and control path and data path failover features to provide higher availability. The TS7520 allows for growth up to 512 virtual libraries, 4,096 virtual drives, and 128,000 virtual volumes, and will become available June 8. Pricing starts at about $32,000 for 8 TB of SATA disk.