IBM Debuts High Speed Tape Drive

IBM overhauls its existing high end tape drive with speed and capacity enhancements

October 14, 2005

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has bolstered capacity in a new high-end tape drive to make more efficient use of data center square footage.

The vendor today unveiled its TS1120, the second generation of its 3592 tape drive, which was launched over two years ago (See IBM Cranks Up Tape and Gartner: IBM Tops Tape Drive Market.) Like the 3592, the TS1120 connects to both mainframes and open systems.

According to IBM, the TS1120 offers a native data rate of up to 100 megabytes per second and a native capacity of 500 Gbit/s. This is significantly more than the 3592s maximum of 40 Mbit/s per second and 300 Gbit/s, although these figures are all based on IBM’s own internal testing.

The new stats represent a shot across the bows of the 9940B tape drive offered by IBM’s arch-rival Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK), which is also aimed at mainframes. The 9940B offers a native data transfer rate of 30 Mbit/s per second and native capacity of 200 Gbit/s.

Tom Sherwin, specialist at the San Diego Supercomputing Center, told NDCF that his site is considering an upgrade to the new TS1120. This, he says, is thanks to the drives’ capacity, rather than their speed, which could solve a big problem for the center. “We’re basically pushing our physical [data center] space,” he adds. “Over the next six months we’re going to be analyzing solutions.”A number of users are caught on the horns of the same dilemma. Their data volumes are spiraling, but at the same time data center space is tighter than ever (See Data Center Dilemmas and Vegas Blade Warning.)

Sherwin thinks speed enhancement could also prove useful, particularly when shifting data from disk to tape. “You have to have some gain in performance because you don’t want to be writing the tape forever.”

SDSC uses both the 3592’s predecessor, the 3590, and StorageTek’s 9940B drives in its 2.5-Pbit/s tape archive. This supports a range of National Science Foundation research, from fluid dynamics through to complex protein studies.

Sherwin told NDCF that SDSC's ultimate technology mix will come down to timing. “Three years ago when we chose the 9940s, there was no similar solution from IBM.” Back in 2002, the 9940 offered more capacity than the center’s 20-Gbit/s 3590 drives.

Tellingly, IBM is offering the TS1120 at the same list price as the 3592 -- $32,000 per drive -- which suggests users have made their budget concerns plenty clear. It's clear IBM recognizes how serial disk technologies are getting faster and cheaper too, and that customers have other options.StorageTek, however, is yet to respond to an NDCF request for current 9940B pricing, although the drive listed at $39,500 when first introduced. StorgeTek's reticence could stem from the fact it's working on its own next-generation tape drive.

Sherwin refused to say how much SDSC has spent on its existing tape drives. He confirmed that it received discounts from both vendors. “We have been long partners with IBM and StorageTek,” he says.

Today, IBM also announced its new TS3310 tape library as well as an updated version of its Data Retention 550 product. This followed the launch of a new tape virtualization device earlier in the week (See IBM, Microsoft in Virtualization Push.)

The TS1120 drives will be available October 28.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-Gen Data Center Forum0

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights