Exabyte to unveil big-time tape drive

Exabyte Corp. this week will unveil a larger and faster tape drive designed for organizations that want to archive and back up large amounts of data very quickly.

The Mammoth-2 (M2) tape drive will be the biggest and fastest tape drive available in its class when it is launched this week, said Greg Mangold, senior marketing manager at Exabyte's Tape Drive Business Unit. The product builds on the company's Mammoth-1 drive technology.

"Of the class of open systems drives that plug into [Windows] NT and Unix systems and that are under $5,000, the M2 is the biggest and fastest," Mangold said.

M2 offers 60G of uncompressed native storage on a single tape and transfers data at 12 megabytes/sec. Other competing drives priced around $5,000 offer less performance and capacity, he added. For example, M2 offers 50 percent greater capacity and twice the performance than Sony Corp.'s AIT-2 and Quantum Corp.'s DLT8000 drives for about the same price.

IBM Corp. meanwhile is set to launch its Linear Tape Open drive next year that is expected to offer about 100G of capacity and 15 megabytes/sec transfer rates, but it will be priced at about $8,000, Mangold said.

Tape drives are easy to use and inexpensive. For bulk storage, "It's the most economical to do," Mangold said. "For data that you're not using every second, tape makes sense because it holds a lot of data inexpensively."

M2, which ships next month, will come with additional features, such as the ability to automatically clean the tape drives to keep them free of dust and debris, Mangold said.

By cleaning automatically, "we eliminate the number one reason tape drives fail," he said.

M2 uses a combination of burnishing heads, which clean the tape before it goes through the read/write heads, a cloth cleaning head to wipe the heads and scanner clean, and SmartClean cleaning tape to remove chemical film that builds up on tape heads. The SmartClean cartridge comes in a range of capacities that enable users to scale their individual tape drives based on their needs, Mangold added.

M2 is automation-ready and soon will be incorporated into Exabyte's Arrowhead family of tape libraries. The product next year will support Fibre Channel technology, which is used for building storage-area networks.

"In one sense, Mammoth-2 will be unique at least for a short period of time," said Bob Abraham, president of Freeman Reports, Ojai, Calif. At 12 megabytes/sec, M2 will hold an "elite position in the small form factor" when it launches, he said, adding that Exabyte is targeting the more performance-oriented market because of the fast data transfer rate.

"From a risk standpoint, it's relatively low risk," Abraham added. "They're not blazing new trails with a new head technology or anything like that. They have a good track record with Mammoth-1. They are very much on time with this product. I wouldn't count them out at all." Exabyte was criticized in the past for coming late to market with Mammoth-1.

Exabyte does about a third of its business with government and counts among its users the Navy, the Army, the White House and NASA. M2 will be added to the General Services Administration schedule.

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