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Midrange tape: the battle rages on

A pair of automated tape vendors are grappling for a bigger share of the coveted midrange tape market. Overland Data, Inc., and Storage Technology Corp., (StorageTek) , each unveiled a new series of automated tape libraries that take aim at small-to-medium sized businesses and departmental workgroups.

This week, San Diego-headquartered Overland introduced the LibraryXpress Neo Series, incorporating the third generation of Overland's expandable, modular robotics.

The LibraryXpress Neo Series' Distributed Robotic Architecture (DRA) provides separate robotics for each library module that forms a multi-module Neo Series system. The Neo Series also features redundant hot-swappable drives, power supplies, robotics and displays, eliminating any single point of failure and providing unprecedented uptime. Redundant components can be activated locally, remotely through a web browser, or automatically through scripting to achieve continuous availability.

Less than 10 inches high, the compact form factor Neo Series LXN 2000 module is available with mixed media format, including DLT 8000, Super DLT and/or Linear Tape Open (LTO) Ultrium drives. When configured with 16 drives, the Neo Series system is scalable from 1T Byte to 24T Bytes native capacity and 21.6G Bytes/hr to 460.8G Bytes/hr native throughput.

The Neo Series comes equipped with a Virtual Interface Architecture (VIA) option bay based on the Compact PCI bus, which allow for customized library capabilities. An optional Fibre Channel interface is available to connect to storage area networks (SANs) and incorporates the support of LAN-free and server-free backup on all major backup software packages.

The modular design of the Neo Series LXN2000 supports two drives and 30 media slots. Up to eight LXN2000 modules may be configured into one Neo Series library system for a total multi-module configuration of 16 drives and 240 media slots in an industry-standard rack.

User-friendly library controls add to the ease of administration. The Neo Series features a touch-screen control panel, remote management, convenient cartridge magazines, a barcode reader and mail slot.

Pricing for the Neo Series starts at around $23,000. Shipments of the Neo Series are anticipated to begin in the later part of the first quarter, 2001.

The Neo Series represents Overland's attempt to reach what the company's vice president of marketing Steve Richardson calls the "low end of the high end". He feels that the mixable media support, modular scalability, remote web-based management and other capabilities are what set the Neo Series products apart from the rest of the pack.

"We support SDLT, DLT and LTO formats as well as all major operating systems. In the future our libraries will be able to support Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) technology as well," Richardson said.

StorageTek, Louisville, Colo., announced two new members of its L Series Tape Library family - the L40 and L80 tape libraries. An addition to the previously released L20.

StorageTek's push into new markets is part of the company's strategy to bring competitive advantage to a wider range of customers, specifically small to mid-size businesses and workgroups.

The StorageTek L40 and L80 Tape Libraries boast capacities of up to 4T Bytes for the L40 and 8T Bytes for the L80. The L Series also packs software tools that enable offloading administration into a single, centralized location for storage management.

The L40 is available for early shipment now, with general availability at the end of February. The L80 will be available for early ship at the end of February, with general availability at the end of March. The L40 with 40 slots and 2 DLT8000 drive lists in the U.S. for $29,950.

The entry into the midrange is something a bit foreign to the usually high-end-focused StorageTek. Company spokesperson Tom Balue stressed the simple method of upgrading the L Series as its biggest selling point.

"[StorageTek] is suggesting a box swap. Rather than assemble the upgrades in the field, our upgrade strategy is just to swap for a larger box," said Balue. "It's a practical customer upgrade."

Aside from the upgrade strategy, StorageTek's library has a similar feature set to that of Overland's. The L Series is aimed at the small-to-medium business space and were designed to mix different formats in one library. Balue said "We've had success in the high-end libraries, now we're doing something a bit different by moving to the midrange."

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, assistant news editor

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