Hot technologies for 2007

Hardware-based tape encryption
The reasons to encrypt data became obvious this year: a succession of incidents in which backup tapes disappeared; federal directives mandating government agencies encrypt stored data; and 34 states currently requiring companies to inform anyone whose identity might have been compromised by lost data.

There are a number of ways to encrypt stored data--at the host, through a network-based appliance, within the storage device or tape library--but the tape device promises the fastest performance with the least impact. We may be going out on a limb with this prediction, but we expect hardware-based tape encryption to become the preferred choice of the largest enterprises with mainframe-based data centers.

These data centers back up sensitive data for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers. They need reliable performance and transparent operations. "These are the companies that manage data on tape for the long term," says Robert Amatruda, IDC's research director, tape and removable storage.

For the rest of the IT world, hardware-based tape encryption will appear in the next generation of LTO devices, LTO-4, probably beginning sometime in 2007. The LTO-4 products will probably involve little or no price premium over today's nonencrypting LTO drives, notes Robert Abraham, president and senior analyst, Freeman Reports, Ojai, CA.

For big data centers, IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc./StorageTek

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introduced encryption built into their tape drives. IBM introduced data encryption on System Storage TS1120 tape drives. These drives encrypt data at tape speed, avoiding the need for host-based encryption that eats host CPU cycles. Sun offers the StorageTek Crypto-Ready T10000 tape drive, which supports a variety of operating systems, including z/OS, Solaris and Windows.

The enterprise products don't come cheap. The Sun product costs $37,000, plus a $5,000 charge to turn on the encryption feature. The IBM product is $35,000. Encryption appliances like those from Decru Inc. (now owned by Network Appliance Inc.), NeoScale Systems Inc. and Vormetric Inc., as well as upcoming LTO-4 drives will be less expensive than tape-encryption drives from IBM and Sun; however, IBM's and Sun's products appeal to enterprises that run large mainframe data centers. "These data centers want an end-to-end storage solution," says Amatruda. "They want native tape drives and don't want the uncertainty of dealing with little companies."

While the enterprise products aren't for every organization, once LTO-4-based tape encryption becomes available, expect tape-drive encryption to become more of a commodity with appropriate pricing.

This was first published in December 2006

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