Crypto-ready tapes launched

Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp. have both introduced data tape encryption technology, protecting against a security breach that can endanger or embarrass an enterprise.

Sun unveiled this month the StorageTek Crypto-Ready T10000 tape drive 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. StorageTek Crypto-Ready T10000 has a base price of US$37,000.

Almost coinciding with Sun’s announcement was IBM Corp.’s introduction of a new TS1120 tape drive that comes standard with encryption capability.

Customers who already have TS1120s can add the encryption feature. The TS1120 has a base price of US$35,500. Both products have encryption key management features that make it easy for enterprises to make sure only the right people can see the data.

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.

A computer tape with information of about 90,000 customers of People’s Bank in Bridgeport, Conn., was lost last January while being transported by parcel carrier UPS to a credit reporting bureau.

Today, 30 U.S. 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, said 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 research firm IDC.

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

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