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EMC, Dell take backup to disk

EMC, Dell take backup to disk

Organisations that rely on cumbersome, slow-to-retrieve tape-based storage for protecting their data will now be able to back it up and restore it faster with inexpensive disk-based storage arrays, according to EMC and Dell Computer.

EMC has opted to put low-cost Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) drives into its Clariion storage systems as an option alongside current Fibre Channel drives, vice-president of markets and products at EMC, Chuck Hollis, said.

The ATA drives could attract users who were willing to spend extra to purchase a disk-based storage system for tasks currently handled by slower tape drives.

EMC along with its storage partner Dell would make the drives available in the Clariion CX400 and CX600 mid-range storage arrays, Hollis said.

"We think this will help bridge a gap between people looking for high performance Fibre Channel drives and cost-effective but somewhat slow tape," Hollis said.

EMC has long promoted the use of disk-based storage as a way to help customers keep much of their data readily available to users and to increase back up and restore speeds.

Many companies, however, still use tape for archiving data because of its low cost. The latest move by EMC and Dell toward ATA drives could give ATA a boost in this battle between disk and tape, one analyst said.

"EMC is traditionally a very cautious conservative company," senior analyst at the Enterprise Storage Group, Tony Prigmore, said. "Now what you are seeing is very rapid adoption of a technology you wouldn't expect the incumbent [storage vendor] to be first to market with. No one expected EMC to do this that fast."

Analysts say that ATA drives, which are commonly used in PCs and servers, allow backup operations at as much as eight times the speed of tape-based media for a cost that approaches that of tape.

EMC had found that such drives could do back-up operations in one-third the amount of time as tape and restore tasks 80 per cent faster than with tape, Hollis said.

The Enterprise Storage Group said 1G-byte of ATA disk space will cost $US1.44 compared to $US0.99 for Linear Tape Open (LTO) I tape drives; by contrast, 1G-byte of Fibre Channel storage averages $US63.20, as much as 40 times as much as ATA.

EMC and Dell expect customers that have already been looking to move some of their data off tape to go after the new ATA products. In addition, the companies are looking for telecommunication vendors, media companies and government bodies to look into the technology as a way of increasing the speed at which they can access large pools of information.

Using ATA drives for backing up data and tape for archiving data is not new. Vendors of network-attached storage and Just a Bunch of Disks (JBODs) such as Network Appliance, Quantum, StorageTek, ATTO Technology and Avamar Technologies already ship ATA-based arrays for backing up data. EMC uses ATA disks in its Centera array for storing data such as digital images that doesn't change over time.

The ATA enclosure starts at US$21,000 with a 1.25T-byte capacity and is available immediately from EMC and Dell. If the customer does not have an existing CX system, the price is US$127,000 for the CX array with 10T bytes of capacity.

In addition to the disk announcement, EMC will offer new storage software for its Clariion and Symmetrix storage systems that lets customers migrate and distribute data between storage arrays either locally or remotely. Called EMC SAN Copy, the software can be used to transfer large chunks of data from one system to another at the rate of close to 4T bytes an hour, Hollis said.

The software could be used, for example, to move information from a production system to a test system for application tuning. The software could also be used for large back-ups or for shifting information from an older system to a new one. The software is available immediately starting at $US18,000.

EMC has started a data migration services program to shift users from HP StorageWorks systems onto its own hardware using the SAN Copy software.


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