Dell tape library is built to scale

Tape libraries recently experienced a dramatic evolution, changing from monolithic brontosaurs that you had to carefully size according to present and future demands, into more congenial devices, easily scalable for capacity and performance.

This new breed of modular, scalable library also has a gentler impact on your budget and on your asset depreciation. Basic module library models are often only slightly more expensive than some autoloaders, which makes them attractive to a larger audience.

In December, Dell added another backup solution to its portfolio and began shipping the PowerVault ML6000, a new modular library based on the ADIC Scalar i500 that promises easy updates to add capacity and performance, as well as friendly management tools. After testing the ML6000 at Dell's labs in Texas, I'd say it delivers on that promise very well.

A bigger screen is better

The first thing I noticed on the ML6000 evaluation unit was the library's wide, touchscreen control panel. The screen is about 3.5ins wide and 6ins tall, giving it a rather comfortable feeling that other, skimpier-sized control panels -- such as the one mounted on the Quantum PX500 -- do not evoke.

In addition to improved readability, the ML6000's larger control panel has the same menu structure and screens content as the library's browser-based management application, so your operators will have to familiarize themselves with just one interface.

Although the HTTP GUI doesn't have all the content found on the library panel -- you can access more diagnostic screens from the latter, for example -- the differences are minimal and I was equally comfortable working from the library touchscreen or from the HTTP GUI.

My test library mounted two SCSI LTO-3 (linear tape open) drives from IBM and had room for 128 cartridges (FC drives are also available if you have a fibre network), all of which you can easily find by browsing the management GUI. Another UI screen showed a summary view of all the drives, data, and service slots, and had the option of showing either the location or the barcode of each cartridge.

The GUI also has numerous wizards to simplify installation tasks, such as partitioning the library into separate sub-libraries, permanently assigning certain slots to cleaning cartridges, and saving or restoring a configuration.

Diagnostic activities include updating the firmware and exporting log files to a local drive for further analysis, both of which worked well in my testing. My test environment was not set up to review the ML6000's other diagnostic features, such as e-mail notifications for major events or calling home when a fault is predicted, but I was satisfied with the management tools I saw and used.

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