Tape RAID offers speed, protection

Besides providing fault tolerance in case of a hard-drive failure, a Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) can also deliver extremely high performance because data can be read and written by the array's multiple drives simultaneously, instead of just one at a time.

That one-two punch of reliability and performance is now being offered in a tape device called StreamIT from MaxOptix Corp.

The new tape RAID appliance is well suited for storing data from so-called streaming applications, which involve large files such as those generated by government telemetry and real-time intelligence systems, according to Fred Bedard, senior vice president of sales and marketing at MaxOptix.

Streaming is also an efficient way to handle the large files associated with enterprise backup and restore procedures, he said.

Using RAID Level 3 to stripe, or distribute, the data simultaneously across StreamIT's five Sony Electronics Inc. AIT-2 tape drives, the tape appliance can write up to 130G of data per hour using a 2-to-1 compression engine. The device also supports RAID Level 1, in which data is mirrored across up to five individual drives or one or two pairs of drives.

RAID has traditionally been associated with hard disks because those devices are considered more prone to failure than tape. But Bedard said tape can actually be the more error-prone of the two. "While tape has grown in capacity and speed, it still has some reliability issues," he said.

The StreamIT appliance costs $29,995 for the Ultra-2 SCSI interface or $34,995 for the Fibre Channel interface.

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