IBM to fill out storage product lines

Big Blue is set to expand its collection of data storage systems later this month by adding a lower-cost, disk-based unit.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--IBM will expand its collection of data storage systems later this month by adding a lower-cost disk storage system based on Serial ATA interface hard drives.

Big Blue will launch the system, its TotalStorage FastT100 Storage Server, on May 25. The FastT100 will sell for a lower price than other IBM Fast systems, because it uses less-expensive, higher-capacity Serial ATA interface drives. The drives come in sizes up to 250GB, an IBM executive said.

The new system, along with several new tape cartridges for tape backup systems, will fill out IBM's storage group offerings for businesses that require the ability to back up or archive their data.

IBM executives, speaking at a meeting with reporters at the company's offices here--the former headquarters of Lotus--outlined Big Blue's storage vision, stressing the need to help customers better manage their data in order to help limit disruptions during disasters or comply with government regulations.

IBM has been advocating three basic storage strategies for its customers, including simplification of the companies' basic computer, storage and network infrastructures, with products such as blade servers and storage area networks as well data management software.

The company has also been urging customers to purchase products and use practices that will help ensure data continuity and security and help in the management of data throughout its useful life, the executives said.

"What we're going about doing here is allowing customers to implement the architecture that allows information to flow freely" throughout their operations, said Rich Lechner, IBM's vice president of storage.

The FastT100 will fit in IBM's strategy by helping fill the need to archive data yet still being able to quickly access it. To that end, Big Blue plans to position the new storage system as a faster alternative to tape systems for storing infrequently accessed data, said Cindy Grossman, director of marketing for IBM's disk, SAN and network-attached storage systems.

Pricing is still being finalized, she said, but the system will start at about $15,000.

Its ultimate cost will vary, however, depending on the number of disks each customer purchases. The base FastT100 system will be able to offer up to 14 terabytes of data, but that can be extended to as much as 56 terabytes, she said.

IBM will continue to offer tape-based systems, however. It will start offering WORM, or "write once, read many," tape cartridges for its Model 3592 tape backup systems, for example, Lechner said.

Meanwhile, the company is also working on a variety of other ways to improve its storage systems.

IBM Research is developing a number of technologies, including one that aims to avoid data loss from the simultaneous failure of two or even three redundant backup disks, as well as software that improves the performance of applications drawing data from network storage.

The company is also working on a storage system built out of bricklike modules that stack on top of each other and automatically assemble and back up data, researcher Jai Menon said.

The system is designed to need very little maintenance. Menon showed off a three-by-three or 27-brick prototype of the system, which he said can hold 32 terabytes of data.