MaxOptix brings RAID to tape

Posted on April 01, 2001

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BY HEIDI BIGGAR

Leveraging technology largely developed by a leading disk array vendor, Fremont, CA-based MaxOptix last month began shipping the StreamIT tape-RAID appliance. The device is geared to serve the backup-and-recovery needs of the midrange disk-RAID market.

It's designed to meet the performance and reliability demands of storage area network (SAN)-based serverless backup, especially of Clariion-class devices, says Fred Bedard, senior vice president of sales and marketing at MaxOptix.

An embedded RAID controller from Ultera Corp. supports RAID levels 1 and 3. RAID 1 enables data mirroring across the appliance's five tape drives (initially AIT-2) or onto one or two pairs of drives. RAID 3 stripes data and parity information across five drives. In RAID-3 mode, the appliance can theoretically stream data at speeds up to 130GB per hour, or the aggregate compressed bandwidth of the five drives. A compressed capacity of up to 400GB is possible.

The appliance supports serverless backup via the SCSI Extended Copy command in environments running software from Computer Associates, Legato, or Veritas (see "Is serverless backup ready for prime time?", InfoStor, January 2001, p. 1). Because no external switch is used, MaxOptix claims data can be backed up at full storage area network (SAN) speeds.

Some alternative serverless backup architectures embed the SCSI Extended Copy command in an external switch or bridge, which limits SAN performance to the speed of those devices.

However, while performance is important, users are equally-if not more-concerned with time-to-recovery issues, says Bedard. He claims that tape RAID addresses both issues.

Priced from $29,995, the appliance requires a significantly greater initial investment by users compared to standard tape library products, but Bedard says the cost is easily justified. "Tape alternatives-a five-drive AIT-2 library, [for instance]-don't offer full data protection," he says. As for disk-based technologies, he says they aren't removable, they aren't practical for companies with limited budgets, and as is the case with mirroring, they don't protect against viruses or human errors.

StreamIt with five AIT-2 drives is currently available. A five-drive half-height LTO Ultrium model will be available in June. IBM will reportedly supply the drives. The road map also calls for an AIT-2 five auto-loader configuration in August and a five-drive AIT-3 model next fall.

Over the last 18 months, MaxOptix has received more than $30 million in funding in two rounds of financing; a third round is scheduled for this spring. In addition to its StreamIT line, the company is working on a variety of "second-tier" storage products, including an Optical Storage Density (OSD) drive, which has magneto-optical-like features.


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