HP Sticks With Tape

By Lauren Simonds | Posted June 27, 2005

It's not often that you find a link between a technology and an American literary giant, but when it comes to tape as a backup medium, the rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

Ever since the advent of high capacity hard drives, hard disk manufacturers have been trying to administer tape its last rites, but tape still remains the most pervasive backup medium going — especially when it comes to small businesses.

According to a 2004 Fleishman-Hillard study of SMBs, 85 percent of the respondents listed tape as an essential disaster recovery technology, while 83 percent said tape plays an important role in backing up data in a business environment with ever-increasing regulatory demands.

HP and USB
HP cites those figures as one of the motivating factor behind today's product launch. The announcement comes as part of the company's Smart Office initiative to provide SMBs with simplified technology and includes the first-ever USB-based DAT backup tape drive. Other products announced today include the StorageWorks Ultrium 232 tape drive and two versions of its StorageWorks 1/8 tape autoloader.

Troy Davis, an HP product manager, noted that DAT is the most popular tape drive format and cited an IDC statistic that 44 percent of all tape drives — worldwide — use that format.

He said replacing the traditional SCSI interface with USB 2.0 drives down cost and increases ease of use without sacrificing performance. "USB is simply less expensive and there's an inherent cost to using SCSI," said Davis. "SCSI-based servers cost more, too. If you have a regular server you want to convert to SCSI, you need to buy a SCSI host bus adapter (HBA) to a server, and those aren't cheap."

A USB tape drive will cost approximately $20-to-$50 less than a SCSI equivalent.

Along with its lower cost, Davis said that USB innate simplicity makes the drives easier to install and manage. "The USB interface is easier to use all around," he said. "You don't have to shut down the server to install it. You don't need to call in an IT expert because the drive installs just like any other USB device." Another advantage, said Davis, is the external model's portability, which makes the drive easy to move from one server to another.

Of course, performance is key, and HP claims that there's no appreciable difference between the two interfaces. "People think of USB as a consumer product," said Davis. "But the DAT format doesn't need anywhere near the speed of USB 2.0's 60MB per second maximum transfer rate. The DAT format's data transfer rate is approximately 6MB per second, a mere one-tenth of the maximum rate." HP states that the drive is rated at 125,000 hours of continuous operation.

DAT USB Capacity and Pricing
HP StorageWorks DAT 40 USB Tape Drive: One cartridge stores 40GB of compressed data. Transfer rate: 23GB per hour. Internal drive lists at $599; external lists at $799.

HP StorageWorks DAT 72 USB Tape Drive:One cartridge stores 72GB of compressed data. Transfer rate: 23GB per hour. Internal drive lists for $749; the external lists for $949.

Fast-Forward to Ultrium
The other products HP announces today include a new entry to its Ultrium line of drives. According to James Lomonaco, an HP marketing manager, ultrium is a non-proprietary tape format. The SCSI-based drives are designed for larger capacities and faster transfer speeds, and Lomonaco said HP new Ultrium 232 drive is the lowest-priced ultrium drive on the market.

"Bigger tapes hold more data and write faster," said Lomonaco, "These new drives are good for customers with a small back-up window — they don't have much time to get the backup completed, so they need both more speed and capacity, and now they can get it at a price SMBs can afford."

Ultrium Capacity and Pricing
HP StorageWorks Ultrium 232 Tape Drive: One cartridge stores 200GB of compressed data. Transfer rate: 115GB per hour. List price starts at $1,799.

HP StorageWorks 1/8 Ultrium 448 Tape Autoloader: Maximum capacity: 3.2 TB of compressed data. List price: $5,299.

HP StorageWorks 1/8 Ultrium 960 Tape Autoloader: Maximum capacity: 6.4 TB of compressed data. Transfer rate: 576GB per hour (compressed). List price: $7,499.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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