IBM puts native data encryption on tape drives

IBM said last week that it is adding encryption as a standard feature on its enterprise-class tape storage drives.

In a short and somewhat vague announcement on its Web site that contained few specifics about the technology or pricing, IBM said its TS1120 tape drives would include native encryption capabilities from now on. By placing the encryption capability on the drive itself, users won't have to eat up CPU cycles on servers or tax the network, the company said. IBM also announced that it will be offering encryption key management software.

IBM had briefed analysts last month on its plan to include encryption at the drive leve, but it did not make a formal announcement at the time.

The functionality, particularly the key management, is important for users who have been concerned about the security of their storage, most acutely at remote offices, said John Webster, an analyst at Data Mobility Group.

Although high-profile losses of tapes and laptops have stimulated the industry to look at security, IT managers are "cool at best" about enforcing security at the storage device level because of performance concerns, an inability to manage the keys and possibly making data inaccessible by not being able to decrypt it, Webster said.

Performing encryption at the drive level also means that both compression and encryption can be performed at the same time, Webster said.

The centralized key management system, pricing for which was not available, works with both the z/OS mainframe operating system and with open systems, Webster said.

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