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EMC Introduces Multipurpose Tape Alternative

With declarations of the death of tape celebrating their 50th anniversary, disk-storage leader EMC is unveiling its first integrated solution for all mainframe tape use cases. While the company admits that the belief that tape is dead is probably never going to be true, it says the challenges with tape are real and the tape market will continue to shrink as it evolves to satisfy very specific workloads like long-term archival storage.

According to IDC analyst Robert Amatruda (Worldwide Purpose-Built Backup Appliance 2011-2015 Forecast and 2010 Vendor Shares, May 2011), customers are demanding faster backup, restore and recovery, and, increasingly, disk systems are being placed in the data-protection path. The worldwide purpose-built backup appliance (PBBA) market was worth $1.7 billion in 2010, with EMC holding the lion's share (64.2%), and the market is expected to reach more than $3.6 billion by 2015 "as customers continue to forgo investments in their tape infrastructure."

EMC says the new appliance is the first result of its acquisition last November of Bus-Tech and its virtual tape library solutions, which utilize open systems disk storage to store and retrieve mainframe tape data. Targeted at IBM z/OS mainframe environments, the Dlm6000, which integrates EMC VNX7500 and/or EMC Data Domain DD890 storage systems, is the only mainframe VTL that offers concurrent support for both primary and deduplication storage within the same platform, says the company. Logical capacity scales to 5.7 petabytes, and at more than 2 Gbytes per second throughput, it is two times faster than its closest competitor. Due to ship next month, the entry level list price is just under $600,000.

Amatruda, believes that the DLm6000 is a viable alternative to tape for mainframe customers. "Tape is still used with gusto in mainframe environments. However, the costs to maintain tape systems can be sizable if you factor in maintenance, off-site vaulting of tape media and relegated personnel to look after the tape backups."

The new appliance brings to mainframe customers key features they never had, such as deduplication, replication and rapid recovery, he notes. "Furthermore, the DLm6000 provides customers vastly improved disaster recovery over using traditional recovery methods, such as tape."

Tape is still cheaper than disk, says analyst David Hill, principal, Mesabi Group LLC, but in a mainframe shop, tape may be used not only for backup but also for IBM DFHSM (Data Facility Hierarchical Storage Manager), some data archiving and for work tapes (that is, scratch tapes). "For those customers having multiple use cases, EMC feels that it has an advantage as its DLm6000 can meet all four use cases, whereas two or three competitive products would have to be used. Disk obviously has a faster recovery time for random I/O than does tape, so DFHSM recalls can be much faster (which one EMC customer cites as having a monetary benefit). Still, a tape library environment (including a virtual tape library environment) has many requirements for both performance and capacity, so a customer has to carefully consider all TCO aspects when considering an overall solution."

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