Dell reworks the autoloader

Rack-mountable PowerVault 124T is easier to load, easier to manage, and still easy on the budget

The last Dell autoloader I looked at, the PowerVault 122T, didn’t wow me, but there’s a lot more to like about its successor. Instead of the mailbox-fed sealed carousel of the 122T, the new rack-mountable PowerVault 124T has two removable eight-slot magazines, one on each side. You still have a mailbox slot, but you probably won’t use it much.

Inside each magazine there is a neat rolling cage with eight slots for media. To insert a cartridge, you align a slot with one of two openings on the inner side of the magazine, accomplished by twisting either of two knobs on the opposite side of the magazine.

Sounds complicated? Actually it isn’t, and it didn’t take me long to get used to it. The tricky part is that the slot number shows only through an opening on top of the magazine, which may become a nuisance if you have to load each cartridge into a predefined slot.

In addition to a barcode reader, the unit I reviewed included a half-height Quantum LTO-2 drive; a less expensive model that comes with a Quantum DLT VS160 drive is also available. The 124T also sports a Web-based administrative GUI (lacking in the 122T) that’s a pleasure to use and a worthy alternative to the powerful control panel of the unit or its Telnet command line. In fact, you have complete control of the unit from the GUI: You can view loaded tapes, move cartridges around, configure network and security settings, check diagnostic logs, and even update the firmware.

The 124T hardware itself has a good feel, and its picker, although noisy at times, moves fast. The price -- which includes a barcode reader, one tape cartridge, a cable kit, barcode labels, and a reassuring three-year warranty -- is attractive. Check it out if you’re shopping for an affordable autoloader.

Dell PowerVault 124T


Cost: VS160 drive: $3,899; LTO-2 drive: $5,999

Available: Now