HP, Quantum represent latest tape technology
Latest generations of LTO and SDLT prove speedy and capaciousFollow @infoworld
Although various industry pundits have repeatedly predicted the imminent death of tape drives, tape backups are still irreplaceable in many business-continuity strategies. Backing up to disks may cut down on downtime, but it’s no substitute for low-cost, long-term data storage and archiving.
Indeed, despite the abundance of alternative backup options, tape technologies continue to evolve, leading to devices that are faster, more capacious, and capable of storing data reliably and at moderate cost. Nowhere is that technological effort more apparent than in the midtier enterprise segment, where Quantum SDLT (Super Digital Linear Tape) competes with LTO (Linear Tape-Open), a technology developed by the triumvirate of Certance, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. (Notably, Quantum recently acquired Certance, putting the company in the unique position of having its say in the development of both technologies.)
Responding to the challenge posed by alternative backup solutions, backers of both LTO and SDLT have released very fast drives and large-capacity reels like never before. Both technologies have clearly drafted road maps that essentially promise to double performance and capacity every two years. Because the milestones for each road map fall on different schedules, picking a point in time for comparison might favor one or the other. In fact, at the time of this writing, Quantum SDLT is still in its second generation, with four more to come; LTO has reached its third generation, called LTO3, with another three to come.
For the roundup, I tested the latest models based on the two opposing technologies, contrasting the single-tape Quantum SDLT 600 with the LTO3-based HP StorageWorks Ultrium 960 and the Certance CL 800.
After using these drives for several months, I’m comfortable recommending all of them. However, their differences and varying requirements may dictate which one is right for your organization.
The two LTO3 devices win hands down in capacity and performance, with the HP tape running slightly faster than the Certance. Even considering only their nominal, uncompressed transfer rate, LTO3 more than doubles the performance of SDLT600, whereas the capacity is just one-third more. Additionally, whereas Quantum’s SDLT tapes must be formatted manually for WORM, LTO tapes can be conveniently purchased in WORM format.
By contrast, the Quantum unit is less expensive, and so are its cartridges. Quantum drives also have a slight edge on management, with a rich set of diagnostic and monitoring tools that outshine Certance’s and HP’s more basic utilities.
HP StorageWorks Ultrium 960
For the review of this LTO3 tape drive, HP offered me a choice between a unit with a transparent shell and one with a conventional casing. Both, I was assured, were the same production units customers would buy, but the transparent shell would allow an unimpeded view of the device’s internal mechanism and easy monitoring of the tape movements.
I couldn’t resist choosing the one with a transparent case, and I’m glad I did: Looking at the tape motion gave me a better understanding of how some of its features work.