IBM ships LTO-4, broadens encryption

By Dave Simpson

—IBM made a series of product announcements this week, most of which centered on tape and encryption.

First, the company announced shipments of a variety of tape drives and libraries based on LTO-4 technology, which doubles the capacity of LTO-3 cartridges to 800GB (uncompressed) and increases the native transfer rate to 120MBps, vs. 80MBps for LTO-3. More importantly, perhaps, the drives offer device-level encryption, which provides a number of advantages over traditional software-based encryption approaches, including much faster encryption and compression without host overhead.

The LTO-4 standard includes a media interchange specification for encryption (so that users can interchange encrypted tape between drives from different vendors), but it does not specify exactly how vendors implement encryption in LTO-4 drives. IBM's LTO-4 encryption technique is based on the same encryption technology—as well as key management functionality—used in the company's higher-end TS1120 tape drives, which have been shipping since September 2006.

Also noteworthy in IBM's LTO-4 lineup is that the tape drives/libraries are available with a variety of interface options, including Serial Attached SCSI (SAS).

LTO-4 technology is now available on five drives/libraries from IBM, all of which are in the System Storage product line:

  • TS2340 tape drive: Pricing starts at $5,170 for an LVD SCSI version, or $5,681 for a SAS version;
  • TS3100 tape library, which has one LTO-4 drive and a choice of LVD SCSI, 4Gbps Fibre Channel, or 3Gbps SAS interfaces. Price is $5,770;
  • TS3200 library: One or two LTO-4 drives and any of the three interfaces. A single-drive configuration is priced from $5,770;
  • TS3310 library: Up to 316.8TB of capacity (30 to 396 cartridge slots) and up to 18 4Gbps Fibre Channel or dual-port SAS drives. Pricing starts at $16,530; and
  • TS3500: Multi-Path architecture and scalability up to 16 frames, 192 tape drives, and more than 6,000 cartridges for as much as 10PB of capacity. Starting price is $22,800.

In other LTO-4 news this week, media manufacturers Fujifilm, Imation, and Maxell announced they will begin volume shipments of LTO-4 tape cartridges this month.

Also on the LTO front, IBM introduced half-height LTO-3 tape drives for its TS3100 autoloaders and TS3200 libraries. The half-height drives have a native capacity of 400GB per cartridge and a native transfer rate of 60MBps. Interface options include Ultra160 SCSI or SAS. Available in June, the drives are priced from $4,800 with a SCSI connection or $5,000 for the SAS version.

IBM also this week announced an upgraded version of its TS7500 virtual tape library (VTL). Dubbed the Virtualization Engine for Open Systems TS7520, the VTL stores up to 884TB (vs. 48TB for the TS7500) and has a throughput rate of 4.8GBps. Later in the year, IBM plans to add 750GB disk drives, which will increase the capacity of a single TS7520 to 1.3 petabytes.

Other features include support for native encryption on the back-end tape devices, hardware-assisted compression and encryption for the disk portion of the VTL, control path and data path fail-over, support for NDMP for NAS, an iSCSI interface option (as well as Fibre Channel), and support for up to 512 virtual libraries, 4,096 virtual drives, and 128,000 virtual volumes. The TS7520 will be available in June. Pricing was not available at press time.

Rounding out this week's announcements, Big Blue enhanced its DR550 and DR550 Express line of archive, retention, and compliance platforms. Enhancements include support for native tape-based encryption and key management for the TS1120 tape drives (LTO-4 will be supported in June), File System Gateway file archiving software that supports NFS and CIFS, and data-shredding capabilities.

DR550 Express Version 4.0 is priced from $24,000, plus $15,000 for the File System Gateway. The DR550 4.0 is priced from $94,500, plus $20,000 for the File System Gateway.

This article was originally published on April 26, 2007