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IBM Speeds Tape Systems, Plans SAN Support.

By William Fellows Keeping up the pressure on tape storage rival Storage Technology Corp, IBM Corp has increased the throughput and storage capacity of its high-end Magstar 3590 E1 tape drives. By feeding tape through the system at 3m a second rather than 2m the drive can now write data at 14Mbs up from 9Mbps. Moreover by increasing the number of channels to 256 from 128 each tape cartridge can now hold 20Gb data, up from 10Gb. The new data rate applies to uncompressed data and therefore does not improve on the 34Mbps sustained data rate which can already be achieved on Magstar by using Ultra SCSI channel. Ultra SCSI is constrained by its 40Mbps operating limit. IBM promises that Magstar will support 40Gb cartridges by year-end; it is doubling tape length to 1,200m. It also has native Fibre Channel connectivity in the pipeline, a smaller footprint plus software that will support tape pooling over storage area networks. It plans to bring RAID Level 1-type functionality to tape through an Enterprise Media Manager application on the runway to support tape pooling. By comparison, StorageTek has only just begun shipping the 9840 product, its own rival to Magstar rival. IBM says Magstar also supports StorageTek's earliest automated tape silos, unlike StorageTek itself, which requires users to upgrade at least to the PowderHorn series of silos if they wish to use 9840 with them. IBM's Storage Systems Division does around 10% of Big Blue's overall revenue which was $81bn in 1998. It claims its storage business is two times greater than that of its nearest rival. Half its business is technology, including OEM disks, the rest is subsystems - disk and tape. IBM claims its $1bn-plus tape business grew 25% last year against an industry average of 5%. It claims to have shipped 45,000 of the mainframe-oriented 3950s, including 5,500 into its Virtual Tape Server which includes tape, disk and ADSM in a box. The Virtual Tape Server gets a SCSI host attachment in May. IBM believes that as long as there is a price/performance issue in system memory hierarchy, there will be tape. Tape streaming is faster than disk writing and is cheap, costing cents rather than dollars per megabyte and is well understood. Not that the technology is standing still, the tape division is working with the 150-strong advanced magnetic recording group at IBM research on several projects including getting more data on to the tape. That means creating more channels or squeezing data more closely together. One way is to put the read and write elements closer together to reduce tape flopping or movement, enabling more channel to be written on each tape. IBM says it thinks the holographic tape storage techniques being pioneered by StorageTek and other Valley hopefuls has yet to demonstrate commercial applicability. Its promise is for random access, optical devices, IBM claims.
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Publication:Computergram International
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 15, 1999
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