Imation Makes Disk Play Nicely With Tape

By Paul Shread | Posted October 12, 2005

Many small businesses rely on tape to backup and restore their data. But with the amount of data that requires saving rapidly increasing, the window for performing those backups is shrinking. That's why backing up to hard disk holds so much appeal — it's a whole lot faster. In an effort to bridge the gap, Imation's come up with a technology that works in a tape environment but offers the speed of backing up to disk.

Imation's new Ulysses technology is a Serial ATA (SATA) 2.5-inch disk drive in an LTO Ultrium cartridge form factor. Used with the Ulysses tape drive emulator, the removable media accelerates backup and restore performance within an existing tape library. The emulator fits in any standard tape drive bay and is recognized by the host, backup software and storage management software as a standard tape drive.

The emulators are expected to cost $5,000 to $7,000, and Imation says the cartridges will be comparable to the cost of tape cartridges.

Imation is targeting the new offering at companies that already use tape, but that want to move a disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) solution to improve restore time without having to adopt a complex new system or invest in hardware or software modifications. A Ulysses-equipped library can restore files up to 10 times faster than a tape-only library, Imation says.

"Business owners want to shrink their backup windows and quickly recover critical data when they want it, without a lot of complexity or additional expense," said Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner at the Data Mobility Group. "Ulysses is the first technology to combine the benefits of tape — low cost and portability — with the backup and recovery speeds of disk."

The technology lets you adopt virtual tape technology a little at a time without a huge up-front investment. You can write backups to a Ulysses drive and then migrate them to tape later for long-term storage.

Because the Ulysses tape drive emulator matches an LTO drive and the Ulysses media has the same form factor as LTO Ultrium cartridges, you can simply drop the Ulysses cartridge into the existing automated tape environment with no changes to floor space, wiring, cooling or other infrastructure challenges.

"We believe the Ulysses solution enhances the performance of tape by allowing businesses to realize the high-speed performance benefits of disk without experiencing the high costs of forklift disk-to-disk upgrades," said James Ellis, Imation's general manager for global product strategy. "The removability, portability and unlimited storage capacity of the Ulysses technology, combined with the benefit of high-speed backup and restores, makes it a truly groundbreaking technology for small to mid-sized businesses."

McAdam sees Ulysses helping businesses with existing tape libraries that want to speed up the performance of backup and restores for small files. "They can put in a Ulysses drive in the tape library and write small backups to Ulysses rather than, say, an LTO cartridge," she said. "After a few days, the backup can be migrated from Ulysses to regular tape."

She also said Ulysses "can be used in autoloaders in remote offices where customers, for whatever reason, do not want to deal with tape."

The Ulysses cartridges — expected to start out at 100GB capacity (200GB compressed) — "do not have the capacity of LTO cartridges, but are not designed to replace LTO cartridges," said McAdam. "They are designed to specifically handle some of the backups, not all. I expect to see the capacities of Ulysses increase in the future."

Imation's Ulysses technology is expected to be generally available in early 2006. The company plans to release product pricing and additional information in the fourth quarter. You can find more information here.

Adapted from enterprisestorageforum.com.

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