Making virtual tape more affordable

Agencies interested in IBM Corp.'s TotalStorage B18 Virtual Tape Server (VTS), but put off by its $500,000 price, can now get their hands on the mainframe tape technology for less than half that amount, thanks to the introduction this month of an entry-level model, the VTS B10.

IBM also expanded the product line upward with the VTS B20. Compared with the B18, the B20 doubles the data throughput to 160 megabytes/sec and the number of tape drives supported to 12, according to Bob Maness, director of worldwide tape product marketing for IBM.

IBM introduced the VTS technology in 1997 as a way to enable mainframes to write data to tape storage more efficiently by providing a disk cache (a fast process) that temporarily holds data until it is written to the tape media (a slower process).

The benefits of VTS include a reduction in the number of tape drives and cartridges needed compared with traditional tape drive configurations, quicker backups and simpler system administration, Maness said.

John McArthur, vice president of storage research for IDC, said the B10 model should attract many more customers to a technology that is already used with about one in every eight mainframes.

The B10 and B20 are the first products in the VTS line that use IBM's new copper-based RS64 III microprocessors, which are faster and less expensive to manufacture than the aluminum-based chips used in the B18, according to IBM. The new VTS models will be available later this month, but they won't support IBM's new FICON connectivity protocol until next year, Maness said.

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