By Timothy Prickett Morgan Storage Technology Corp has announced two new storage products that it hopes will contribute mightily to its top and bottom lines. The first product is the 9840 tape drive, a product the company developed from scratch and which is not compatible with its clones of IBM’s 3480 and 3490 mainframe tape […]
By Timothy Prickett Morgan
Storage Technology Corp has announced two new storage products that it hopes will contribute mightily to its top and bottom lines. The first product is the 9840 tape drive, a product the company developed from scratch and which is not compatible with its clones of IBM’s 3480 and 3490 mainframe tape drives. The 9840 tape drive uses a new medium that StorageTek says offers higher capacities and better data integrity than current 3490-type tapes. A 9840 cartridge contains two spools of tape rather than the one spool in IBM 3480/3490 tapes; the tape holds 20 gigabytes of data, 40 gigabytes with compression, and has a sustained data rate of 10 megabytes per second (20 gigabytes per second with compression on). Like other Ultra SCSI devices, the 9840 supports burst data rates of up to 40 megabytes per second. The 9840, which can be attached to IBM mainframes and AS/400s as well as to Unix and Windows NT servers, has a list price of $27,400 for Ultra SCSI attachments and $34,400 for models that connect to IBM mainframe ESCON channels. The 9840 can be integrated into StorageTek’s TimberLine and PowderHorn tape libraries, the standard in the industry. StorageTek has also announced a beefed- up version of its Iceberg mainframe disk array called the Virtual Storage Manager that offloads hierarchical storage management from the mainframe and puts it on an Iceberg array equipped with in-house developed HSM software and its own RedWood 3490-style tape drives. While conceptually different from IBM’s own Virtual Tape Server, the StorageTek VSM is addressing the same need: getting storage management off expensive hosts and onto commodity-priced disk controller circuits. The StorageTek VSM is a production disk array and the software on it creates virtual tape arrays that look and act like real IBM-compatible tape drives, at least as far as the host is concerned, but which are storing data in cache memory and stacking up multiple volumes to get as much data as possible on a single tape before actually pushing it out to tape. StorageTek says that most mainframe customers only use 10 or 20% of their tape capacity, mainly because using a whole tape slows down retrieval performance in the event data actually has to be recovered from tape. Having studied the situation, StorageTek discovered that 80 to 90% of most data retrievals from tape occur with 24 hours of archiving, and so equipped the Iceberg array at the heart of the VSM with enough cache memory to hold 100,000 virtual tape cartridges (these have lower capacities than the new 9840 tapes, which are not available for attachment to the VSM yet, but will be sometime in 1999). This means that customers can keep this data in nearline mode in the VSM’s cache memory to the point where it may not even have to be written out to tape, which makes retrieval time a snap and cuts down on the load the tape drives in the VSM have to handle. Using virtual tapes can cut down on thousands of potential tape loads a day, says StorageTek. The VSM not only supports StorageTek’s RedWood tape drives, but can also be integrated with its TimberLine and PowderHorn tape libraries. There are currently five models of the VSM. The smallest model has 180 gigabytes of usable disk capacity (Iceberg arrays use data compression to minimize the physical size of a disk array and to boost performance), 32 virtual tape drives, support for 8 ESCON channels back to the mainframe and attachment ports for two real tape drives. The largest model has 930 gigabytes of disk space, 64 virtual tape drives, 16 ECSON channels and attachment for eight real tape drives. Prices start at $320,000 for a base model. OS/390 release 1.2 or above is necessary to support the VSM on IBM mainframes. StorageTek says it will eventually offer support for the VSM on Windows NT and Unix servers. Last week, the company advised Wall Street that it was on track to ship approximately 3000 9840 tape drives by the middle of the first quarter, and thought it would be able to meet its target of 200 VSM shipments by about the same time. StorageTek has warned Wall Street that the last few weeks of the year often make or break its numbers and that this year was no different. StorageTek says it has every intention of booking revenue for both products in 1998, which should help its numbers considerably. With customer demand for the 9840 exceeding current manufacturing capacity, StorageTek is right now trying to ramp up production even a little faster to meet it.