Storage firms combine disc and tape libraries

Three top tape library suppliers have confirmed that they are working to combine inexpensive disc arrays with their libraries to...

Three top tape library suppliers have confirmed that they are working to combine inexpensive disc arrays with their libraries to bolster backup reliability and data restoration.

Advanced Digital Information (ADIC), Storage Technology and Spectra Logic are each developing products which will use serial ATA disc arrays physically and logically tied to tape libraries to consolidate storage management, speed backups, increase redundancy and guarantee the fast restoration of mission-critical data. 

ADIC said its combination disk/tape library will be available this autumn. Spectra Logic said its model will be available early in 2004. 

Jonathan Otis, ADIC's senior vice president of technology, said he sees RAID as adding reliability to his company's libraries because "you can lose a disc drive and the backup will continue, while with tape drives, if a drive goes down it will stop the process and you'll have to start it all over again on another drive." 

Representatives StorageTek would not say when its product will be available, but they did say the technology is part of an overall information lifecycle management initiative focused on storing data on varying forms of media.The aim is to align cost, reliability and speed of recovery with the importance of the data. 

"The next logical step for our partners and customers is doing tighter integration of components with not just disc to tape, but [with] networking and management tools," said Tom Balue, manager of product marketing for StorageTek's Automated Tape Solutions division. 

Balue said one of the biggest advantages of a disc/tape library combination is that systems administrators can have a single console that allows them to back up different data sets to disc and tape without having to learn multiple backup applications.

"What's the advantage of disk over tape? If you lose a tape, you're in trouble, but if you're using inexpensive disc in a RAID, the data isn't lost," said Matt Starr, chief technology officer at Spectra Logic. 

Another advantage to combining disk arrays with tape libraries is that administrators could combine power sources and cooling systems, Starr said. 

Rick Luttrall, director of product marketing for the Nearline Storage division of leading tape vendor Hewlett-Packard, said HP is considering combining disk and tape, although he added that addressing a policy-driven information lifecycle management strategy that includes intelligent software is far more important. 

Because disk arrays help ensure that data is backed up, they can help companies meet government regulations which demand that e-mail be retained and retrievable. 

Several companies, including StorageTek and Network Appliance, have adopted the use of inexpensive Advanced Technology Attachment disc in RAID configurations as "near-line" storage devices. But the lengthy archival process still requires that data on secondary storage be moved by the application server, eating up precious CPU cycles. 

ADIC's Otis said his company would develop hardware that allows a straight-through process from backup to archive that does not affect the application server.

Lucas Mearian writes for Computerworld

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