Sun, IBM launch tape encryption technology

Tape drives' encryption key management features make it easier to protect against security breaches

Sun Microsystems and IBM are both introducing data tape encryption technology this week, protecting against a security breach that can endanger or embarrass an enterprise.

Sun unveiled on Wednesday the StorageTek Crypto-Ready T10000 tape drive (base price: $37,000), which can be set to encrypt data as it records it on the drive. This is one of the first products to be introduced following Sun's acquisition of StorageTek in 2005, said Nigel Dessau, vice president of Sun's tape business.

Sun's announcement was preceded Tuesday by IBM's introduction of a new TS1120 tape drive (base price: $35,500) that comes with encryption capability standard. Customers who already have TS1120s can add the encryption feature.

Both products have encryption key management features that make it easy for enterprises to make sure the right people can see the data and the wrong people can't.

The tape encryption technology should be welcomed in the wake of recent incidents in which tapes and other confidential data have fallen into the wrong hands.

Last January a  computer tape with information of about 90,000 customers of People's Bank, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, was lost while being transported by the parcel carrier UPS to a credit reporting bureau.

Today, 30 states have laws that require companies responsible for keeping customers' data to notify those customers of any security breach that might affect personal information. In the past 18 months, 90 million consumers have been notified of potential security breaches under those laws, says Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM System Storage.

The negative publicity can be damaging to companies that have to report a breach. But if the data on computer tapes is encrypted, only the tape will be lost, not the data. This could take some heat off companies. For example, under California law, the loss of the tape would not have to be reported, said Sun's Dessau.

Sun's tape drive is supplemented by a Sun StorageTek Crypto Key Management Station (KMS), a separate Sun Solaris workstation that manages key encryption.

IBM offers the IBM Encryption Key Manager, which the company said has its origins in the encryption standards it introduced in its mainframe computers.

IBM's Monshaw said the company has reached its sales goal for the year for the encryption-capable TS1120 even before its official launch, although he declined to reveal specific figures.

These new product launches are important because they come from major computer system makers and bring tape encryption capabilities directly into an enterprise network, said Robert Amatruda, research director for tape and removable storage for the research company IDC.

"The implementations extend...right down through the infrastructure, they are very well supported and are not point systems or third-party solutions. This is a pretty major commitment," Amatruda said.

Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies