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Quality Awards IV: Sun shines again in tape library challenge

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Tape libraries highly rated

In our modern data centers, tape libraries loom like leftovers from the Industrial Revolution, with more moving parts that are likely to wear down, wear out and break. But judging from the results of various tape library surveys, these devices just seem to keep chugging along. "They have been running for 10 years," noted one survey respondent of his company's tape libraries. A number of respondents offered similar comments, and it's clear that library vendors deserve some kudos for refining their wares to achieve a level of reliability that rivals other storage devices.

But with the emergence of disk in the backup process, not all is happiness in tape library land. Disk has, in some cases, diminished tape's role, with some storage managers looking to eliminate tape entirely. "Tape sucks," commented two respondents, both of whom are moving toward disk-only backups. Another called tape "yesterday's technology" and indicated that he's "moving away from tape." Still another said unambiguously, "I hate tape -- we use external [hard disk] storage wherever possible."

But for most of our survey respondents, tape is still an integral part of their operations, and not an unwelcome part at all. "Regardless of what people say, tape is not dead," noted one such user, who added, "The cost to keep disk spinning that long is just too high."

Sales-force competence

The experience that most storage managers

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have with any piece of storage equipment starts with the sales process. For tape library buyers, this is an especially critical part of the process as the products they purchase will play a key role in data protection and are likely to become long-term fixtures in their shops. Sun came out on top in the sales-force competence category for midrange libraries with a score of 6.63 that easily surpassed second-place finisher IBM (6.37). Sun outpaced the field with the highest scores for five of the six statements in the sales-force category, with particularly high scores for the statements "My sales rep is knowledgeable about my industry" (6.82) and "The vendor's sales support team is knowledgeable" (6.76).

"They have a long history here, so they do know my environment," said Max Arnold, executive director for data center operations for the State of Tennessee's Office for Information Resources in Nashville. Arnold has three Sun libraries, including a large Sun StorageTek SL8500 Modular Library System. He said his sales rep is typically accompanied by a technical resource. "They come and whiteboard with us, and we go through the entire environment in maybe a half-day session to get everything designed right," he said.

Kurt Hazel, senior lead systems administrator at the Spartanburg, S.C.-based headquarters of Denny's Corp., had a similar experience during the sales process for the firm's IBM System Storage TS3310 Tape Library. "We explained our needs, and they met every one of them," Hazel said, adding that the IBM team was "very, very receptive."

This was first published in August 2009

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