ADIC, IBM Bring Intelligence, High Capacity to Tape Storage

New technologies-one near-term, one long-term-will separately help Advanced Digital Information Corp. and IBM bring users modern software intelligence and high capacity on traditional tape storage.

New technologies—one near-term, one long-term—will separately help Advanced Digital Information Corp. and IBM bring users modern software intelligence and high capacity on traditional tape storage.

On the tape intelligence front, ADIC, of Redmond, Wash., recently acquired the intellectual property and staff of virtual tape startup V-Stor LLC for an undisclosed price. The technology being developed by V-Stor, of Santa Clara, Calif., lets disks appear as tapes to an application, operating system or intelligent storage device. That already exists for mainframe systems to break mainframes 1-1 file-to-tape ratio. In todays open- systems world, disks, which are nearing tape in cost-effectiveness, can serve as virtual tapes to accomplish faster recovery over multiple streams and real-time partitioning, said Jonathan Otis, senior vice president of technology at ADIC.

Otis said ADIC is about 18 months away from turning V-Stors work into a product line. "We already had big portions of what we needed, in terms of the management of data on disk," he said. "This gives us effectively a new way of collecting data."

The remaining obstacle to the product rollout is coding time, not engineering feats, he said.

Robert Amatruda, a tape industry analyst with International Data Corp., said education is probably a more significant issue. "There are many companies out there that are trying to create that same functionality, [but] people dont walk in the door and ask for something to do that," said Amatruda, in Framingham, Mass. Still, "customers feel the pain around backup and managing the data. It seems like a sound approach to me," he said.

Meanwhile, on the capacity front, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., last week announced that engineers have successfully stored a terabyte of data on a single tape cartridge, although it took 15 hours to write the data. IBM plans to productize that, but it will take three to five years, said John Teale, director of tape technologies and a distinguished engineer for IBMs Storage Systems Group in Tucson, Ariz.

The road map has three increments, starting with moving todays 100GB cartridges into the 200GB-to-400GB range, followed by half-terabyte systems and then full-terabyte units.

But IBMs challenges are many, Teale said: The write times need to reach just 2 hours; the number of concurrent channels needs to double from todays eight or 16; recording heads need to be redesigned; the tapes need to double todays speeds of 4 or 5 meters per second; and the tape itself, because its very thin, needs to be packed more carefully to eliminate air pockets. The increased capacity is accomplished by putting a tapes magnetic components and tracks closer together, and the write heads are guided by specially designed servo tracks.

In addition, engineers need to guess what the best interface will be, from choices such as SCSI, Fibre Channel and InfiniBand.

A terabyte equals 16 days of continuous DVD movies, 1,500 CDs or 8,000 times more data than a human brain retains in a lifetime, according to IBM. This month marks the 50th anniversary of IBM and 3M Co.s invention of the magnetic tape drive. In May 1952, Model 726 held 1.4MB on a 12-inch movie reel.