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Should we use TSM and LTO-1 in an AIX environment?

Is the utilization of TSM and LTO-1 in a large, primarily AIX, environment the right thing for us? We are seeing a very high failure rate for both tapes and drives. Is there a better solution? TSM does a lot of read and writes, especially with tape reclaimation processes it utilizes. Is there a more appropriate tape medium?

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The combination of AIX, TSM and LTO-1 tape technology has a pretty widespread installed base on the market, so to answer the first part of your question: I would have to say yes, it is the right solution from a software perspective. In my opinion, a backup solution is only the wrong solution when it does not meet your business requirements.

Now for the second part of your question: While it is true that TSM does mount tapes volumes for reclamation purposes, it only does so once per tape cycle. That is, when a certain percentage of data has expired on a given tape, the remaining data is moved to another tape. So technically, one could argue that tapes are mounted potentially twice as often with TSM. However, LTO-1 media is rated at 5000 loads, unloads and initializations. LTO-1 drives have a Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) rated 250,000 hours at a 100% duty cycle. As I mentioned in a previous reply to a reader, these ratings must be taken "with a grain of salt." In any case, TSM's reclamation process should not cause the drives or media to fail at a rate noticeably faster than other software solutions.

Without knowing any specific details about your implementation, the issues you are experiencing seem to point to a hardware problem. Possible causes for premature failure can include: Faulty media, inappropriate media handling, environmental conditions (heat, moisture, dust), etc. Given the cost of a new tape subsystem, replacing the hardware should be considered only when all other options have failed (including putting some pressure on the hardware vendor).

This was first published in September 2004

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