Tape Library Autoloader
The IBM TS2900 Tape Autoloader is an entry-level automated backup for rack systems and small to midsize businesses. With a low-profile, high-density storage capacity, the TS2900 is ideally suited for backup and archival operations. The TS2900 is available with half-height LTO Ultrium tape technology, with 6 Gbps SAS drive options. Web-based remote management and a bar code reader help provide ease of use. The TS2900 can be used in a rack system or on a desktop next to a server in an office.
Tape Library Autoloader
Allows LTO Ultrium 8 tape drives to read and write LTO Ultrium 7 media LTO Ultrium 7 tape drives to read and write LTO Ultrium 6 media and read LTO Ultrium 5 media. LTO Ultrium 6 tape drives can read and write LTO Ultrium 5 media and read LTO Ultrium 4 media.
Backup tape libraries have bigger capacities than tape drives, but they also have other advantages. "A tape library has more features [than an autoloader]," said Peri Grover, director of product marketing at Overland Storage Inc., a maker of both autoloaders and tape libraries. She said a tape library works when you have "more data and you need to get at it faster, manage it remotely or split it into virtual libraries."
The difference between tape autoloaders and tape libraries is more than just the number of drives. Tape libraries are generally much more robustly built and reliable than autoloaders, and even the inexpensive ones, with built in bar code readers to help organize the tapes. Some libraries, such as the Qualstar Rackmount RLS-series, have components such as servo motors and precision lead screws in their robotic arms to more precisely and reliably position tapes.
High-end tape autoloaders slightly overlap in capacity and price with the least expensive libraries. The Quantum SuperLoader 3 can handle up to 24 TB of uncompressed data using LTO-5 tapes and compression. The list price for the Quantum SuperLoader 3 is $5000.
In tape libraries today, LTO-4 is currently the most popular format. However, LTO-5 is just beginning to arrive and will become increasingly popular as more manufacturers start to offer it. The market for low-end tape libraries is highly competitive, so it pays to shop around.
In addition to cost, the other main disadvantage to a tape library is complexity. "It's a significantly more complex environment," Grover said. Unlike autoloaders, libraries have to be managed by the system's backup software, and the ability to do things like split a library into multiple virtual libraries require more sophisticated management.
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What you will learn in this tip: the differences between autoloaders and tape libraries. Learn about some of the pertinent pricing and compatibility issues when transitioning from an autoloader to a tape library.
With voice and video data becoming more common in the enterprise, some data storage and backup administrators are finding that the volume of data that is being backed up on a nightly basis is growing exponentially. If you find yourself in this situation, then you may eventually discover that the tape autoloader that you're currently using for data backups is no longer sufficient. One possible solution to this dilemma is to invest in a backup tape library.
Being that both tape libraries and autoloaders can be used to automate backups requiring multiple tapes, it is easy to confuse the two technologies. Autoloaders are typically used in smaller businesses. They consist of a tape drive, a tape magazine and a robotic mechanism that can move tapes between the tape drive and the magazine on an as needed basis.
The biggest difference between an autoloader and a tape library is that tape libraries include two or more tape drives. What are the benefits of having a tape library, as opposed to simply purchasing multiple autoloaders?
The thing that really sets tape libraries apart from autoloaders is that the robotic loading mechanism is able to access all of the tape drives within the library. This allows backup jobs to be run in parallel (which is also possible with multiple autoloaders), but it also helps to improve the reliability of the backup operation. If for example, a tape drive were to fail then the tape library could conceivably continue any backup or restoration operations by using an alternate drive within the tape library.
In addition to normal backup and restore operations, tape libraries are also commonly used for hierarchical storage management (HSM). The basic idea behind hierarchical storage management is that on just about any network, there are files that are almost never accessed. These files consume space on network volumes, and have traditionally been included in regular backups even though the contents of the files rarely if ever change.
Typically, tapes offer a lower price per gigabyte than server hard drives do. Obviously, every tape library is different, but larger tape libraries can include hundreds or even thousands of tapes. Hierarchical storage management remove seldom used files from network volumes and archives the files to tapes within the tape library. These files still appear to reside on network volumes, and remain accessible to users. If a user should ever require access to one of the archived files, the tape library will retrieve the tape containing the requested file, and load it into a tape drive. The file is then moved back to the network volume where it originally resided, and made available to the user.
While this process probably sounds slow, it is important to remember that the tape library knows exactly which tape the requested file resides on. Tape libraries use barcodes to identify individual tapes so that the robotic loading mechanism is able to verify that it is retrieving the correct tape.
The first bit of advice that I would give you is that you shouldn't plan on using your existing tape drives in your new tape libraries. I once did a consulting job for an organization that had recently spent a lot of money on tape drives. They wanted to upgrade to a tape library, but wanted to reuse their existing hardware. Unfortunately though, a phone call to the manufacturer revealed that even though the model of tape drive that the organization was using was also used in tape libraries, it was impossible to retrofit a tape library with an existing tape drive because the drives that the manufacturer provided for tape libraries were using different firmware from what the standalone drives used.
Another compatibility issue is whether or not your current data backup software will work with the tape library that you are considering purchasing. All of the major enterprise backup software vendors offer tape library support in their wares. The catch is that not every backup application works with every tape library. As such, it is important to verify that your backup application is compatible with your intended tape library before making the purchase.
The prices of tape library hardware are widely varied. Refurbished, entry-level tape libraries can cost about $6,000. When sold brand-new, the unit costs just under $10,000. Tape libraries suitable for large organizations can cost anywhere from a quarter of a million dollars on up to well over a million.