Back-burner storage

Good cooks instinctively know when a dish is ready to be moved to the back of the stove. By putting it on the back burner over low heat, they free both theirminds and the front of the stove for preparing additional items.

Storage administrators share similar concerns. They move company data from the front line to a less-heated location, either to free up space on customer-facing storage devices or to create a second copy of a database for data analysis.

The traditional name for this midway storage pool is secondary storage, a not-so-hot term to describe storage that isn't so important that you need to keep it online on a primary (and typically more expensive) disk but isn't so irrelevant that it should rest on a tape medium. So what you have is a disk-based device that backs up a primary disk.

However, the increasing popularity of these disk-based backup solutions is blurring the line between secondary and backup storage. They provide faster data protection cycles that somewhat displace tape-based solutions, while creating an affordable alternative to traditional HSM (hierarchical storage management) offerings.

It was inevitable that backup mogul Quantum, promoter of the EBSI (Enhanced Backup Solutions Initiative), would enter this area. The recently released Quantum CX30 is a 4U box with 3TB backup capacity, using RAID 5 on ATA drives, and sporting 2Gbps FC (Fibre Channel) data connectivity and Ethernet-based management.

According to Quantum benchmarks, the CX30 can sustain backups at a speedy 60GBps. But this is what's unique to Quantum's solution: Customers can maintain their own backup software and procedure. In fact, the CX30 emulates tape devices -- major backup software products "see" the CX30 as an array of tape devices (two to six, according to the customer's settings), and can quickly create online copies and later copy them to tape media for archivaland offsite storage.

At a suggested price of US$55,000, the CX30 should satisfy customer requirements for faster data protection without stepping on backup software andtape vendors' toes.

Also in the kitchen with a disk-based solution is StorageTek. The company introduced a new system using ATA and IDE drives that are said to be three to four times cheaper than high-performing FC or SCSI drives.

The new disk array, the B150, also has five ATA drives, but they're mounted onto a 1U-high blade. The storage controllers see the ATA drives as 10high-capacity FC drives; ten blades stacked in a 6U rack configuration provide 8TB of backup.

We like this dish, too, and anticipate that bladelike architectures will continue to show up as the secondary storage menu expands.

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