IBM Pushes Tape’s Envelope with TS1150 Drive
October 21, 2014 Alex Woodie
On Friday IBM will begin deliveries of the TS1150, the fifth generation of the IBM 3592 enterprise tape drive. The new high-end drive will move data at rates up to 360 MB per second and support cartridges that store up to 10 TB of uncompressed data. And later this fall, the TS1150 will also borrow a neat trick from its LTO sibling.
The 3592 enterprise tape drive is IBM’s high-end drive for the biggest, most demanding clients who need tape environments with the highest capacity, highest speed, and lowest error-rates. The tradeoff for choosing the 3592 series over the Linear Tape Open (LTO) series, of course, is price. These are not your budget-oriented tape drives.
But they are oh-so-fast. The new TS1150 sports a 32-channel giant magneto-resistive (GMR) head design that offers 360 MB per second of raw performance. That’s a 44 percent speed boost over the 250 MB per second data rate offered by the TS1140. With dual-port 8 Gb per second Fibre Channel interfaces, the TS1150s can move data in hurry from a variety of servers, including Power Systems and System z mainframes.
IBM also increased the capacity of each 3592 drive with the TS1150. Using the Type D media, each cartridge can hold up to 10 TB of uncompressed data, which is a 150 percent increase over the TS1140’s capacity. With compression turned on, each cartridge can hold more than 20 TB of data. If big data is your problem, then the TS1150 may be your answer.
Those are speeds that LTO can’t touch, at least at the moment. The currently shipping LTO version 6 gear offers a native data transfer rate of 210 MB per second and a native capacity of 3.2 TB, with support for 2.5-to-1 compression. LTO version 7, which should start shipping in late 2015, will offer a native data transfer rate of 315 MB per second and a native capacity of 6.4 TB. The LTO roadmap currently extends out to generation 10, at which point we could see drives that move 1 GB of data per second and hold more than 120 TB on each cartridge.
Of course, by then, IBM will have delivered new versions of the 3592-class tape drives. And don’t forget Oracle, which owns the old StorageTek business that competes with IBM’s enterprise drives. Oracle’s current top-of-the-line drive, the StorageTek T10000C, moves 240 MB per second and supports 5 TB of capacity. That drive was released in 2011, and you can expect to see an update from Oracle soon.
IBM has a few tricks up its sleeve in the meantime. Buried in the TS1150 announcement letter is a statement of direction that IBM is planning to introduce support for the Linear Tape File System (LTFS) to the drive sometime in the fourth quarter. LTFS was developed for the LTO drives, and enables customers to treat data stored on the drive as it would any other normal file stored in the file system.
To date, LTFS (which is only available on Windows and Linux) has mostly been used by companies in the media and entertainment industry that want fast access to random bits of content stored on tape. It’s unknown if IBM will be supporting LTFS in the IBM i and z/OS enterprise environments, where the 3592-level drives are most commonly deployed.
The TS1150 can be installed in IBM TS4500 and TS3500 tape libraries as well as IBM racks that enable stand-alone installation. They can also be installed in the tape libraries offered by Spectra Logic, which supports some of IBM’s biggest clients in enterprise and HPC computing environments.
IBM is supporting the TS1150 drives with the latest IBM i Technology Refreshes (TRs), including IBM i 7.1 TR9 and IBM i 7.2 TR1, which IBM announced October 6 and which become available in December. For more information, see IBM hardware announcement 114-165.