Oracle boosts speed, capacity of tape drives

A tape library from the former StorageTek business can now hold an exabyte of data

Oracle is taking aim at the fast-growing storage demands of large enterprises with the latest version of its high-end tape drive, which will be able to pack 5TB of uncompressed data onto a tape cartridge.

The T10000C tape drive has more than three times the capacity of any drive Oracle sells now, and the company claims it beats any other vendor's product as well. Installed throughout an Oracle StorageTek SL8500 Modular Library System, the new drives would provide a total library capacity of 500 petabytes, according to Tom Wultich, director of product management for tape storage at Oracle. With compression technology that typically can double the amount of data that fits on a cartridge, the T10000C can deliver a systemwide capacity of 1 exabyte, according to Oracle.

Oracle's previous highest-capacity tape drive was the LTO-5, which also fits in the SL8500 but is designed for departments and midsize organizations, Wultich said. The LTO-5 drives have a 1.5TB capacity. In addition to capacity, the T10000C beats the LTO-5 in write speed, with 240MB per second compared with 150MB per second. At those speeds, an SL8500 library could capture more than 500TB per hour, shrinking the time window for each backup operation, he said.

Sun Microsystems acquired StorageTek in 2005 to bolster its struggling storage business. Since Oracle finished its acquisition of Sun about a year ago, the company has continued to update and add to the StorageTek line, including an increase in its capacity to 100,000 drives. Its tape products fit into Oracle's overall storage strategy as one tier of an architecture that also includes solid-state and hard disk drives, Wultich said.

Hard disk drives are encroaching on tape's traditional domain in both backup and long-term archiving, because they allow for fast access to data for ongoing use and analysis, analyst Henry Baltazar of The 451 Group said. But tapes are still much more portable when it comes to handling very large amounts of information, he added. For example, an exabyte of data on tape could be shipped across the U.S. overnight.

"It's going to take you a long time to push that over a wire," Baltazar said.

Tape can also help companies minimize power consumption, because it consumes no power except when the tape is actually being spun, Baltazar added. Most hard disk drives still can't spin down when not in use, he said.

As data deduplication helps to fit more data on fewer spinning disks, space and power concerns are easing, he added. And with cloud storage services, an enterprise can push the technical issues of maintaining giant disk arrays outside of their own data centers. But tape libraries such as StorageTek's are well-entrenched in many enterprises.

"I don't think tape's going to go completely away anytime soon," Baltazar said.

The T10000C will go on sale Tuesday and over time will replace the current T10000B drive. All these drives fit into the SL8500 libraries, which can be linked in clusters of 10 and managed as a single library with 100,000 slots. With the increased density that comes with the new drive, enterprises can make more efficient use of their tape cartridges and their floor space, according to Oracle. The company was not immediately able to provide pricing information on the drives or cartridges.

An SL8500 is designed for backup and archiving for both mainframes and open-systems servers, Wultich said. The platform can be used with Oracle Secure Backup and Oracle Recovery Manager 11g software, and integrated with Oracle's Exadata family of database machines for backup.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
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