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LTO drives and heavy use

We will be implementing some very large database systems in the near future. It will consist of several databases with over 22tb. We will be implementing split-mirror backup and backing up to tape. Due to the high duty cycle that we will be driving the tape drives, we initially thought of using mainframe class drives (IBM Magstar or STK 9940).

Recently we have been considering LTO drives. What are your thoughts about LTO drives for this kind of heavy use? Are there other tape technologies we should look at?

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There are a number of tape drives designed for the open systems market that have 100% duty cycle. They include 9840, 9940, LTO and SDLT. Sony's DTF and Ampex's DST do not specify a duty cycle but they are also very fast with a very large capacity. A comparison of all the specifications for these tape drives is available at: http://www.storagemountain.com/hardware-drives.html.

LTO has good specifications and is establishing quite a reputation out there. Over 1,000,000 LTO drives were shipped in its first year. A lot of people are also buying Super DLT but it's still only made by Quantum, which was a complaint that many people had with DLT in the first place. They want a drive that can be purchased from multiple vendors. If that's what you want, then LTO is a pretty safe bet.

The 9840 and 9940 drives have some very good specifications as well but you pay dearly for those extra numbers. If you need those extra numbers, then the price justifies itself. Just make sure you need what they offer before you spend the money. DTF and DST are also interesting but they are niche players. If you are looking for a mainstream drive, LTO wouldn't be a bad choice at all.

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This was first published in May 2002

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