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IBM keeps rolling with tape backup

Who says the future of storage is disk, and disk alone? Not Big Blue, not with all that data out there.

Many in IT believe that the future of storage is entirely disk and that tape is just for archiving--but not IBM.

The company this week launched three new tape drives, including a tape virtualization engine, and brought back a once-redundant optical disk library by popular demand.

The TS7510 is IBM's first virtualization engine aimed at the midrange Unix and Intel server markets. It allows customers to consolidate data into fewer, more high-performance/high-capacity tape drives and uses virtualization to split data between tape and disk.

The integration of disk and tape, IBM said, delivers the most cost-effective backup of increasing volumes of data.

Products like the TS7510 are proof of the continuing role of tape even in areas where the lowering cost of disk storage are making faster disk systems almost as economical, said Peter McNamara, IBM's system storage tape manager.

"Tape is still the cheapest method of storing digital data and will be for some time," McNamara told ZDNet UK. "Other suppliers say that tape is dead, but that is not what our customers say."

And to back that up, IBM this week launched what it claims is the world's fastest tape drive--the TS1120, more than twice as fast as its predecessor. It has a native data rate of 100Mbps and a capacity of 500GB. Also introduced at Storage Expo were the TS1100 tape drive with up to 500GB capacity and the TS3310 modular, a midrange tape library.

Tape can compete even in performance terms, McNamara said. "Depending on how it is configured, you can get very similar (backup and restore) performance from tape that you get from disk."

And if tape is not dead, neither is optical disk. IBM is also relaunching the 3996 optical library for iSeries customers. "We phased that product out because we thought there was no demand for that type of optical library anymore," said McNamara. "So many customers asked about it that we brought it back in a new version. That's what it is about--the customers."

The 3996 has a 30GB capacity and is scalable to 5 terabytes.

Colin Barker of reported from London.