Automated disk libraries sell tape cartridges and that’s a welcome boost to a depressed storage market. Consequently, the tape library announcements are coming fast and furious with Storage Technology Corp and IBM Corp setting the pace – but the plaudits, unfortunately, are less than fulsome. Pundits suspect that StorageTek may have shot itself in the […]
Automated disk libraries sell tape cartridges and that’s a welcome boost to a depressed storage market. Consequently, the tape library announcements are coming fast and furious with Storage Technology Corp and IBM Corp setting the pace – but the plaudits, unfortunately, are less than fulsome. Pundits suspect that StorageTek may have shot itself in the foot with an over-confident launch of its Iceberg RAID device, trying to pre-empt IBM, and then rushing out the Powderhorn, TimberWolf, WolfCreek and ExtendedStore library enhancements without being able to ship them, simply putting sales of the existing library into cold storage. By the same token, the dimensions of IBM’s 3495 – between 44 feet and 92 feet – boggle the imagination and all notions of ergonomics.
Meantime, Comparex Informationssysteme GmbH has followed a more steady path, garnering business in Europe over the past three years with its 6388 library. The German company is serious about storage, and apart from the tape library, it has a established a collaborative agreement with Amperif Corp on a RAID product codenamed Viking (CI No 1,880), while its usual product source, Hitachi Ltd, has been dithering on the sidelines, miscalculating IBM’s intentions and timetable. But what of Hitachi Data Systems? Since 1990, Hitachi has held a European marketing agreement with Grau GmbH to provide and maintain the German’s system, and it claims to have over 100 installations in Europe. It seems improbable that Grau will challenge the big players, but the company intends to manufacture under licence at Robert Bosch & Co GmbH’s factory in Chicago and to open offices in France, Spain and Italy. Nonetheless, the Grau-Hitachi Data agreement has been low-key, possibly because of IBM’s abortive relationship with Grau, marred by accusations and counter-accusations of industrial espionage between Grau and Haushahn GmbH. Hitachi Ltd may have lagged the field in terms of an IBM-compatible library, but it has a system for the domestic market, and it looks likely that an IBM-compatible system will ship in the first half of next year.
StorageTek’s tape library has grabbed all the headlines and high profile sales, IBM hopes to claw back lost ground with its train set device, but in the Hitachi camp, there are German stirrings and some healthy business already. Janice McGinn reports on the complicated state of play.
Sources say that Comparex, Hitachi’s second mainframe distributor in Europe, is assisting Hitachi with development work and if the Hitachi library is not competing directly with the high-end 6388, then it is possible that Comparex will market the library. So what of Hitachi Data? It is unthinkable that it won’t market the parent company’s product, but will that conflict with the Grau library, and if so, will Hitachi Data continue to offer Grau’s system? How Hitachi Data juggles this potential dilemma remains to be seen, but in the interim, it is being proactive, and reports of presentations to UK and German users are becoming more frequent. Its library is called ABBA (and cheap shots about the revival of that much-missed ditty, Take A Chance On Me, are totally unwarranted). ABBA/2 is the latest version, and using double length tape, up to 13.8Tb of data can be stored in a single tower with 5,760 cartridges. It comprises between one and four Bosch-manufactured robots, which can be static or run on rails; there are a number of linear racks or rotating towers, and an 80486-based PS/2 under OS/2 acts as the managing unit. The system supports a mix of 3480 and 3490 cartridges, and data compression, bi-directional recording and double length tape cartridges will be supported in the future. One robot can service up to 32 quadro towers, up to 184,320 cartridges and up to 250 actions per hour. The robot has a camera – formerly an infra-red device – which reads bar-coded labels and identifies cartridges in the insert rack and checks the cartridge against the inventory. The quadro tower measures 7 feet 4 inches in diameter and height depends on the number of cartridges, but
a 3,840 cartridge configuration would measure 6 feet 10 inches.
Plastic The linear racks are 3 feet 8 inches and the capacity is variable. The cartridges, which are stored in plastic boxes to reduce weight, are loaded or removed via the insert-eject rack which holds up to 120 cartridges, four magazines, and additional racks can be attached. HACC, Host ABBA Communications Control, is the integrated software component which runs as a subsystem under MVS with support for both JES2 and JES3. Also supported are VM/SP; VM/HPO; VM/XA; VM/ESA; VSE/SP; and VSE/ESA. The control intelligence of the entire system is located in the host and the communication interface from the host to ABBA requires a coaxial connection to a local non-SNA 3274 unit. Data transmission between HACC and the ABBA archive personal computer is via EXCP or VTAM. A mount operation takes between 12 seconds and 18 seconds while a keep operation is completed in under 15 seconds. Grau says that improvements in space and speed are due largely to a new robot. Designed by Bosch GmbH, a minority partner since last year, the robot’s gripper is no longer attached to the lower part of the arm, but it moves up and down a vertical post. The range of motion is almost an entire circle and the robot system is 65% lighter than previously so that the travelling speed is said to have doubled.