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Ease your growing pains

Ease your growing pains

Many companies find themselves in the difficult position of knowing they will eventually need greater backup capacity but not being able to quantify how much. Modular tape libraries such as Overland's LXN (Library Express Neo Series) - and similar solutions from Hewlett-Packard and Quantum ATL - offer companies the advantage of a budget-friendly basic unit that allows for added capacity and performance, at a linear cost, as business growth demands.

The range of products from Overland Data includes tape drives, autoloaders, and modular midrange and enterprise-class libraries that offer scalable solutions for tape formats such as Sony AIT (Advanced Intelligent Tape), Quantum DLT (Digital Linear Tape), and SDLT (Super DLT) and LTO (Linear Tape Open).

Overland's LXN2000 is one such expandable library. In fact, customers can start with a basic module - with room for as many as 26 cartridges and two tape drives - that connects via SCSI or fibre channel adapters to your backup servers and networked storage.

Installing a second unit and attaching to the primary unit via Xpress Channel - an elevator-like structure that moves cartridges between modules - doubles capacity and performance of the library. With similarly sized updates, you can stack as many as eight modules, which can drive the total cost close to $US280,000; however, this cost can be spread over time, can be paced according to the growth of your requirements, and is competitive with similar offerings from other vendors.

Recently Overland Data announced LXN4000, a new packaging for the library. The LXN4000 is essentially similar to (and stack-compatible with) the LXN2000, but it has twice the capacity, twice the number of drives for each module, and each module costs twice as much.

In essence, companies using the LXN4000 can build the same total backup capacity at the same cost but with fewer modules than is necessary starting with the LXN2000, which gives more update flexibility and simplifies installation issues.

For our review, we tested an LXN2000 with two SDLT tape drives and SCSI connectivity. Nine inches tall and 28 inches long, the unit can be mounted easily in a standard rack. This configuration offers a respectable native capacity of 2860GB and theoretical backup speed of 79.2GB per hour, at a price of approximately $US34,500.

The front panel of the LXN2000 has two doors which give access to each magazine, and it sports a sleek touch-screen LCD display to manage configuration and daily tasks. Although there is a power switch in the back, do not expect a power-on button (or any other switch) on the front: just tap your finger on the LCD screen, and the LXN2000 comes alive. Through a glass window above the screen, you can keep an eye on robot movements and drive operations.

Overland offers three different tools to manage and configure the library, giving administrators maximum flexibility and ease of use. Once the unit's power is on, the LCD screen provides an interactive menu, literally at your fingers, for making initial settings or performing ongoing maintenance such as changing SCSI ID or setting the IP address for the built-in HTTP server.

As a second approach to maintenance - this one based on the NeoCenter client software - administrators may connect the LXN2000 to the serial port of a backup server or any computer (all cables and connectors are included).

A third option is to point your Web browser to the library's IP address and gain access to the graphic-rich GUI of WebTLC to inspect operations, change configuration, or diagnose problems from any computer on the network.

The three maintenance tools are functionally equivalent and offer features to quickly detect and report problems or malfunctions such as setting SNMP traps or sending automatic e-mail messages to an administrator.

Loading and unloading the library is a breeze: unlock one or both doors by tapping on the appropriate LCD menu entries, and then take the magazines to a working area such as a desk. Reloading the magazines will automatically trigger the robot to quickly take inventory of the cartridge bar codes.

Interestingly, one of the magazines has a slot with which a user can load or unload a cartridge without disturbing ongoing activities. This is a very handy feature for easily fixing the operator's loading mistakes or replacing a faulty tape without triggering a physical scan of every slot.

Connecting the LXN2000 to an Adaptec 39160 SCSI controller on our Windows 2000 backup server was simple. For our backup and restore tests, we used Computer Associates' Arcserve 2000 Advanced Edition 7.0, which correctly recognised robotics and drives in our library.

During our test we measured backups with transfer rates varying from close to 11MBps without compression to faster than 19MBps with highly compressible files.

We gave the LXN2000 high marks because it is extremely easy to set up and use and because it offers a set of management tools that are among the best in the industry at helping to diagnose problems quickly from built-in traces and error logs.

Overland offers a three-year warranty on the Neo Series libraries and several maintenance options that should satisfy the most pressing requirements and reliability concerns. Perhaps even more important, the LXN2000 and LXN4000 can flexibly grow at a predictable cost as your expanding business demands faster and more capable backups.

The bottom line

Overland LXN2000.

Business Case: The Neo Series tape libraries offer a financially friendly path to building enterprise-class libraries starting with easily expandable and cost-contained modules.

Technology Case: The library offers SCSI and fibre channel connectivity, easy integration with SNMP, and interoperability with many platforms and backup software.

Pros:

+ Easy to install and update.

+ Top-notch management tools.

+ Fast robotics.

+ Excellent remote administration.

Cons:

- Expandable to 208 slots but only to 16 drives.

Cost (all prices RRP including GST):

NEO system with dual DLT8000, 26-slot capacity: $71,700.

NEO system with one SDLT220, 26-slot capacity: $55,900.

NEO system with one LTO Ultrium, 30-slot capacity, $55,900.

Full Library with 16 DLT8000 drives, 208-cart capacity: $568,000.

Dual fibre channel fabric option: $12,000.

Platform(s): Major backup software on multiple platforms; supports mixed DLT, SDL, and LTO tape drives.

Digital Tape Solutions is the exclusive distributor for Overland in Australia.

Digital Tape Solutions: (02) 9496 111, www.dlt.com.au.

Overland Data: www.overlanddata.com.

Test centre scores

Ease of use - 9.

Implementation - 8.

Innovation - 9.

Interoperability - 8.

Scalability - 9.

Security - n/a.

Suitability - 8.

Support - 8.

Training - 7.

Value - 7.


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