IBM and Sun each claim to develop 'first' 1TB tape drive

Announcements bring tape capacity in line with rotating disk drives, also offered in the 1TB size.

Both IBM and Sun this week claim to have developed the "first one terabyte storage tape drive," but Sun will get its drive on the market a little bit sooner than IBM.

Sun on Monday announced the StorageTek T10000B Fibre Channel tape drive, which is double Sun's previous top capacity of 500GB. Sun's device will be available this month for prices starting at US$37,000, but is a bit slower than IBM's new tape drive.

IBM on Tuesday followed up by claiming to release the "world's first" 1TB tape drive with the System Storage TS1130, besting its previous top capacity of 700GB. Big Blue will ship the drive worldwide on Sept. 5 with a starting price of US$39,050. Customers who already use IBM tape storage can upgrade to the 1TB system for $19,500. Both IBM and Sun said their new drives will be compatible with previous generations, allowing read and write operations between the old and new drives.

"I was kind of laughing that two people were claiming to have the first at the same time," says analyst George Crump< of Storage Switzerland.

The announcements bring tape capacity in line with rotating disk drives, which are also offered in the 1TB size. The higher capacity makes sense for tape, given that it is used so often for long-term archiving, Crump says.

"Tape continually gets labeled in the dead category and yet advancements still occur and people continue to use it," he says. "If tape's role really does become archive, it makes sense to make that archive as deep as you can."

IBM boasted that its new tape drive delivers data at a rate of 160 megabytes per second, allowing backups to be completed 54% faster than its previous product. Sun on its product Web site says its own T10000B drive delivers speeds of 120Mbps.

IBM also said it developed a Giant Magnetoresistive (GMR) tape design that produces fewer data read errors than competing technology.

"Massive data protection, compliance and archive solutions" are ideal for the new product, IBM says.

"Coupled with IBM's tape virtualization offerings, large, scalable automation, and tape drive encryption, customers can benefit from the low cost of tape solutions that are highly secure, while simplifying the management of backup and archive operations," IBM says.

Sun, meanwhile, said the new 1TB tape drives will help customers consolidate floor space and lower power costs.

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Jon Brodkin

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