Best storage products of 2005


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Backup Hardware

Gold: Sun L1400M Tape Library

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Sun's L1400M can use four different tape formats in a single box.

AS ONE OF OUR judges put it, it may be "somewhat contrarian" to give the gold to a tape library in 2006, but Sun Microsystems Inc.'s L1400M solves a top problem in tape: the ability to use four different tape formats within a single library, and it's a solution that's been a long time coming. "With innovations in disk systems, if tape wants to be relevant for long-term archiving in the future, it needs to be format agnostic," said the judge, adding that "it's something tape customers have wanted for years."

Sun's L1400M is based on StorageTek's L700e library, which it acquired last June. The L1400M is compatible with fast-access T9840, high-capacity T9940 or midrange LTO/ SDLT tape drive formats. The L1400M version adds support for more operating system platforms, including Novell and Linux, and is shipped with a Web-based management tool--an optional upgrade with the equivalent StorageTek product.

The single-frame library scales from 200 to 678 slots (1,344 slots if you go with a dual-frame architecture) and has a list price of $69,000, which includes Fibre Channel (FC) connectivity, remote management, a 20-slot cartridge access port, all physical capacity installed and access to 200 cartridge slots. Capacity is added at roughly $3,000 per 100-slot increment. Partitioning is an optional feature and lists at $8,000. As one judge put it, "finally, somebody did the right thing for their customers."

Silver: Data Domain DD460

The DD460 provides compression for disk-based backup and will work with all leading backup applications.

DATA DOMAIN INC.'S DD460 is the first major upgrade of a previous winner, the Data Domain DD200 Recovery Appliance, which won gold in this category for the 2003 Products of the Year awards. At the time, a judge asked if the 20:1 compression ratio and 23TB capacity was a typo. The DD460 would probably make that judge think he was dreaming--the new box boasts not only performance improvements, but now packs a whopping 83TB of usable capacity into a single appliance.

The capacity allows users to retain up to three months' of backup data onsite, where it's easily accessible. Improvements in throughput, now topping out at 290GB per hour--comparable to LT0-3 performance--enables users to back up massive amounts of data to disk under tight time constraints.

The DD460 also introduced what Data Domain calls the Data Invulnerability Architecture, which verifies the recoverability of data at backup time--a claim that no other enterprise disk array or file system can make. Data is continuously re-verified so backup data can be restored quickly and reliably.

All products in Data Domain's DD400 Enterprise Series work with nearly any standard backup software; unlike many other storage players we could name, Data Domain doesn't want to sell you hardware so it can sell you proprietary software.

Ultimately, the best news for users is that the product costs just $75,000 (vs. the $58,000 price tag of the 23TB version), bringing the cost of backup to disk well below the $1/GB barrier. "This is one of the only truly innovative products in the bunch," said one of our judges.

Bronze: Quantum PX500
Series Tape Libraries

Quantum's PX500 Series tape library uses infrared connections that provide easy, wireless scalability.

TO ADD CAPACITY to a tape library, you often have to put together a new frame. With Quantum Corp.'s PX500 Series tape libraries, all that's required to add capacity is to slide new boxes in. No cabling is needed because the new PX Series tape libraries use infrared connections between modules, very similar to the signal a television remote control emits. Boxes from each of the three classes of PX500s libraries can be stacked with the others, and the entire system will appear to management software as one unit. No other tape library vendor is making frames so easy to stack.

Put another way, the PX500 Series "is attractive because you can start really small and get really, really big," said one judge. "You won't need a crane to add things in."

The PX502, which is the smallest of the three tape libraries, is a 4U box with one or two drives. It holds either 32 DLT or 38 LTO tape cartridges, and can mix media. Next up in size is the PX506, which can hold 88 DLT or 100 LTO cartridges. The PX510 goes up to 40U, and can hold 22 drives and 220 cartridges.

This was first published in February 2006

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