Quantum boosts tape drive performance

Quantum has released its latest midrange tape drive, bulking up the amount of data that can be stored on a tape cartridge and cutting backup times.

Quantum's SDLT 320 makes a significant jump in per-cartridge storage capacity over the current SDLT 220 drives. Whereas the SDLT 220 tape with a SDLT 220 drive will hold 220GB of data (assuming a two-to-one average compression rate), the new drive can store as much as 160GB of uncompressed data and 320GB of compressed data on the same media cartridge. The actual compressibility of data varies according to the types of files, however.

Quantum achieved the higher capacity by finding a more compact way to store data on the tape, according to Jim Jonez, director of product marketing.

"The SDLT 320 format stores 190,000 bits per inch as compared to the 130,000 bits per inch stored in SDLT 220 format," Jonez says. The boost in data density provides a 60 percent capacity advantage of SDLT 320 over its nearest competitor, he adds. Specifications for the SDLT 320 drive call for it to transfer data at 16 megabytes per second, as compared to the 11MBps rate of the previous drive.

Space-Efficient Option

The greater storage capacity should be advantageous to companies with cramped data centers. The SDLT 320 drive will fit into existing tape libraries, allowing users to pack over 45 percent more data into the same space. In addition, customers can take the Super DLT-1 tape cartridges used in their existing SDLT 220 drives and get the higher storage capacity by reformatting them in the new drive, Jonez says.

Super DLT tape drives use optical servo technology, and the reformatting involves only a quick change of header information on the tape, Jonez says. The new drive is also capable of formatting and writing to SDLT 220 format when interchangeability with older SDLT 220 drives is essential.

The SDLT 320 drive also provides read-compatibility with DLT 8000, DLT 7000, DLT 4000, and even DLT-1 tape cartridges. According to Jonez, DLT tape Technology drives account for 70 percent of the market in products used in midrange tape libraries.

Quantum has started shipping the drives worldwide at a suggested retail price of $4495. The tape media is priced at US$149.95 for 160GB of native capacity.

Ready Applications

Tape continues to be a popular medium for many data storage tasks, as it offers easy removabilty and high capacities along with lower costs and less hassle than disk-based storage. Tape storage is generally preferred by companies for large data backup projects and for archiving information.

One user was impressed by the performance of the new drive and said a higher cost would not stop him from purchasing the SDLT 320.

"In backup media it is about reliability first, but after that it's all about performance," said Ed Goldfarb, principal composer at Madcap Labs, in Corte Madera, California. "Naturally, faster throughput and larger capacity just translate into extras on my end."

Madcap Labs uses Quantum's products to store large amounts of audio data, including the musical score for new footage in the recently released director's cut of the Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now. The company plans to purchase the new drives later this year, Goldfarb said.

Ashlee Vance of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

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