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SpectraLogic first off LTO-5 block

Two new dedupers, too

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Data protection vendor SpectraLogic is announcing the first LTO5 drive pre-purchase programme, and is also introducing two new deduplicating disk backup and archive products for small and medium businesses.

SpectraLogic is that rarity, a profitable tape automation supplier. It is privately-owned and was founded in 1979 by Nathan Thompson, who is still its CEO thirty years on, which must be a record in the storage business. The firm offers tape automation products - focussing on LTO - as well as disk-based protection.

It doesn't disclose annual revenues, although marketing VP Molly Rector said it recorded $13m of media sales last year. The general industry view is that Spectra does about $40m a year in revenues, which is much smaller than the $100m-plus revenues of Overland Storage, Tandberg Data and Quantum, the other big non-mainframe tape automation vendors.

However, each of the tape automation big three is loss-making, debt-ridden and striving to return to profitability. Spectra is none of those things. It has no proprietary tape format and doesn't build its own drives, tending to source them from IBM. It has latterly ventured into disk-based protection, but within a disk-to-disk-to-tape scenario. It's also increased tape reliability with a media-life-time monitoring capability. By and large Spectra does not do any OEM tape automation business, selling through other systems vendors.

Concerning mainframe tape automation, Rector said that Sun/StorageTek Powderhorn tape libraries are coming to their end-of-service period in 2010, and that customers are disgruntled with Sun: "Customers are going to have to migrate; so they'll look at tape drive technology."

She doesn't think they are likely to migrate to Sun's StreamLine libraries, being disgruntled with Sun as they are, and will look instead to migrate either to IBM or, potentially to Spectra. IBM she says is capped at 7,000 slots whereas Spectra can grow to just over 10,000 slots.

LTO-5

With its LTO-5 pre-purchase program, customers buy, in effect, the right to be first in the queue when LTO-5 drives are shippable. They'll get an LTO-4 drive now which Spectra will take back and replace with an LTO-5 drive when they're ready. It has an LTO-4 drive refurb program ready to take in the returned LTO-4 units and sell them on.

The LTO-5 drives can read and write LTO-4 tapes, and use the same encryption algorithms, as well as reading LTO-3 media, so no migration is required and customers can start using LTO-5 media with its 1.5TB native capacity and 140MB/sec transfer speed as soon as they get their drive, expected within the next three months or so.

The LTO-5 drives will use either 8Gbit/s Fibre Channel or 6Gbit/s SAS interfaces, but there will not be a SCSI interface.

Dell could be bringing out an LTO-5 tape library according to an industry source. It will be a 4-drive unit and feature, like Dell's EqualLogic storage arrays, an iSCSI interface. Dell will manufacture the library, using IBM or HP-sourced LTO-5 drives. The company currently sells a 4-drive PowerVault TL4000 LTO-3 or LTO-4 tape autoloader, understood to be built by German manufacturer BDT and supplied through IBM.

nTier deduplication

The two new deduplication products are the nTier v160 and v320. These use 2TB SATA drives and fit between the entry-level v80 and high-end vX models. Spectra doesn't provide raw capacity data, saying instead that the v80 has a logical capacity of 72TB and users can expect a 20:1 deduplication ratio. This implies a 3.6TB raw capacity level.

The vX has a logical capacity of 86 - 516TB, implying a raw capacity range of 4.3 - 25.8TB.

The v160 tops out at 122TB logical capacity (5.1TB raw) with the v320 having a 286TB logical capacity (14.3TB raw). Both have a 500MB/sec bandwidth, like the v80.

The v160's list price is £29,394, with the v320 costing £52,315. They are available to order immediately and will ship in October.

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