Hunting for customers

Lowering prices in a sleepy market is a surefire way to stimulate demand. But another way to get customers to open their wallets is to offer an innovative product at a competitive price.

This is what Quantum has done. Its new tape library, Mako PX720, promises unprecedented scalability, performance, and capacity. I know I am a storage junkie and easily excited by backup solutions, but the specifications of the Mako PX720 should grab even the most jaded storage manager.

Expected to ship by year-end, the PX720 features a compact cabinet measuring 30-by-50-by-75 inches. That space can be used for dual purposes. One can either maximize capacity by installing up to 732 cartridge slots or improve performance by mounting up to 20 ½-inch drives. Obviously, mounting more drives leaves less space for online cartridges.

The tape drives inside the unit are organized in modular, hot-swappable modules. Each module has its own cooling fans and can house up to four tape devices.

Flexibility is an appealing characteristic of the new library. Customers can choose the configuration that best fits their environment. A storage manager can install just one drive model or a mix of Quantum-made and LTO (Linear Tape Open) drives.

The capacity and performance numbers of the library are also impressive. According to Quantum estimates, with 20 SDLT (Super Digital Linear Tape) 320 drives installed, backups can crunch thousands of gigabytes of noncompressed data per hour. If optimized for capacity, the same unit can hold hundreds of terabytes online.

With the introduction of the forthcoming Quantum SDLT 600, the PX720 library should double in capacity and performance. It can expand to five cabinets, creating a centrally managed monster library with a mind-numbing 100 tape drives and 3,660 cartridge slots.

High-end tape libraries don’t come cheap, but the PX720 has an affordable entry-point price of about $93,000 for a unit with two drives and 190 slots.

As expected, for high-end client-server customers, the library supports just about any connectivity protocol for those platforms, including SCSI, FC (Fibre Channel), and Gigabit Ethernet. Speaking of protocols, Quantum is going to play it nice with fellow members of the Storage Networking Industry Association. Quantum says the new library is compliant with the SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification) meaning that third-party, SMI-compliant management software should be able to handle the device without too much fuss because it doesn’t use proprietary APIs.

Quantum's enthusiastic marketing folks named the new library after a predator -- the mako shark. But the PX720 has more than just predatory instinct. It also promises to be a docile, adaptable device that responds to complex backup scenarios.

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