Benchmark Device Eases Automated Data Back-up

Benchmark Storage Innovations last week rolled out one of the industry’s first compact, rack-mounted storage devices that can back up and recover information from multiple preloaded storage tapes, saving companies space in floor-space constrained data centre environments.

The ValuSmart Tape 640 Blade, known as a tape autoloader, is a 2U (3.5-inch-high) device that automates the back-up process by preloading up to eight tapes, saving IT staff the tedious loading and reloading of tapes required for a nightly back-up.

Tape autoloaders are typically large square boxes that connect to a server or Fibre Channel-based storage-area network (SAN) and sit on a desk or shelf rather than having to be mounted in industry-standard racks like servers and network gear, according to analysts.

“Anything that improves space efficiency and form factor is good news,” says Tony Prigmore, an analyst with Enterprise Storage Group Inc. “Every IT department wants to save space over the long run.”

Capable of backing up as much as 640GB of compressed data, the ValuSmart Tape 640 Blade holds up to eight Digital Linear Tape (DLT)-format cartridges. An IT professional could use one tape for each day of the week and the eighth for a tape-cleaning cartridge, or span the nightly back-up over multiple tapes, thus saving manual tape reloading. Customers could also back up a number of servers to a single autoloader, one server to each tape in the device.

Multiple 640 Blades can be daisy-chained in a rack, and each can be managed from an LED console on the front of the device, as well as off-the-shelf back-up software from companies such as Veritas Software Corp., Legato Systems and Computer Associates Inc.

The autoloader connects to a network server via a SCSI connection or to a SAN with a Fibre Channel-to-SCSI router.

Benchmark says the 640 Blade competes with existing DLT autoloaders from vendors such as Dell Computer Corp. and Tandberg Data ASA, as well as disk drive vendors. From a price standpoint, it fits between Digital Audio Tapes and DLTs and is compatible in price with some stand-alone tape drives, the company says.

The device will be available next month for less than US$4,500.

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