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New EMC disk storage mimics tape

The data storage specialist plans to announce a new hard drive-based device that serves the same back-up role as tape products but offers faster performance.

To help companies handle data backup and recovery tasks, storage specialist EMC plans next week to unveil a product that is based on disk drives but acts as a tape device.

EMC is calling the new product a "disk library," according to sources close to the company. So-called tape libraries are robotic mechanisms that house a number of magnetic tape drives and cartridges. Sources said the new product would allow speedier data backups and restorations than are possible with tape and minimal complications in installation. EMC disk libraries appear to computer systems as tape libraries and are designed to be up and running within two hours, the sources said.

"This is a drop-in appliance," one source said.

EMC is targeting a major area of focus for information technology shops, in part because data volumes are growing and thereby lengthening the time needed to make backup copies. Research firm IDC recently said the backup software market has been spurred by factors such as efforts by companies to prepare for disasters and to meet data-handling regulations.

EMC's product is not the first disk-based device to stand in for a tape library. StorageTek, for example, has a product for disk-to-disk backup. And EMC's existing Clariion disk arrays, built with lower-cost ATA drives, can also serve this purpose. But previous disk-to-disk backup arrangements typically required a fair amount of additional work for administrators, such as modifying current backup software, according to sources.

One company working on technology that does compete with the new EMC disk library is Copan Systems, according to sources.

EMC's new products, expected to ship April 12, are based on its Clariion array and use ATA drives. There are two main categories, sources said. The Clariion DL700 has a maximum capacity of 58 terabytes of useable storage and up to 174 terabytes using compression technology. The Clariion DL300 has a maximum capacity of 12.5 terabytes of usable storage and up to 37.5 terabytes using compression.

Sources said that in typical scenarios, EMC expects that its disk libraries provide roughly 30 percent to 60 percent faster backup performance and 90 percent faster restore performance than tape, depending on configurations.

A DL700 with 32 usable terabytes (in compressed mode) is expected to carry a list price of $450,000, sources said. The company expects that its disk libraries are 40 percent to 55 percent more expensive than comparable tape products, sources said.