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May 06, 2010

Tape is not dead, HP says, with new LTO life

StorageWorks LTO5 HP has started to make a case for the fifth generation of LTO, or Linear Tape Open devices. LTO-5 products from the HP StorageWorks line are emerging, like the Ultrium 3000 tape drive. HP is now saying that LTO-5 storage can help IT departments stretch budget dollars, because the tape can take the place of disk storage that is more costly to buy and maintain.

It does not make sense to spend on expensive disks to quickly get to data you are unlikely to ever access. When times get tough, many feel as though there’s nowhere left to make improvements. The latest generation of LTO tape drives, tape media and automated tape libraries illustrates how technology can fill the void. With proactive management, lower cost per gigabyte, faster performance and data encryption, HP LTO-5 solutions can help companies do more with less.

When it comes to storage strategies and IO connections, HP's 3000 alternatives make a significant argument for a migration. HP ensured there would be a wide gap in functionality once it stopped developing IO and tape technology for the 3000 around 2005. As for Ultrium support, the 3000 never had parity with its Unix and Windows counterparts in the HP labs, not even in the beginning.

Jim Hawkins, formerly of the HP 3000 lab and still working at HP, pointed us at an HP Communicator article he wrote which sums up the last generation of LTO support for the 3000. The server can work with LTO-1 devices, at least under HP's official support guidelines. "LTO via LVD-SCSI would be about as far as I would go," he said today. "FiberChannel connections were not even attempted in the lab." Not even HP's own TurboStore backup app will support LTO, however. Orbit's Backup+ gets the job done, according to the Communicator report.

As you might guess, LTO-5 is a lot more advanced than the first-generation of linear tape. HP's latest charts don't even bother to compare the two; the comparison is between LTO-3 and LTO-5. Latest-generation storage is one thing that a homesteading 3000 site must leave behind, or attach to other HP systems that are networked to the 3000.

The newest Ultrium 3000 compresses up to 3 TB of data on a single cartridge, transfers that data at up to 11 TB per hour, and encrypts using AES 256-bit standards. (Orbit's got that encryption ability available to HP 3000 sites doing backups, too.)

Ultrium support on the HP 3000 goes back to 1999 for planning stages, but support for the full transfer rate of the standard never made it past HP's designs. The initial full 320 Gbit bandwidth was available on HP-UX, but only 160 made it to MPE/iX support when it emerged with the MPE/iX 7.0 patches.

HP gave signals at the beginning of the Ultrium era that it would support the 3000 far better. In 1999 we wrote that "TapeAlert is not yet on the horizon, but LTO is" for the 3000. "We're working closely with our Enterprise Storage Business Unit to follow the peripheral roadmap," said CSY lab section manger Dave Wilde at the time. "As those products are developed, CSY plans to integrate those into the 3000 product line."

The Ultrium line of HP tape products rolled out along with TapeAlert, designed to track errors during backups. SCSI tape devices don't track errors like the old HP-IB devices did in another 3000 era, so HP needed a way to ensure you wouldn't create a backup tape that didn't restore when needed.

TapeAlert has evolved into TapeAssure, software that's gone from reactive to proactive as listed on the LTO-5 offerings. TapeAssure is "a quick, easy-to-read dashboard that provides health, utilization, and operational performance data." Windows, Linux and HP-UX can provide TapeAssure readouts.

There was always a non-3000 host in HP's support of Ultrium under MPE/iX. Hawkins' paper outlines "limited support," and you can see how tight the restrictions were while looking over the support specifications. Only the N-Class and A-Class servers use the old generation of Ultrium, employing the LVD-SCSI ports.

Physical connections are to be made only to LVD-SCSI Host Bus Adaptors. LVD-SCSI terminators must be used for devices to function at rated speeds. HP recommends only ONE Ultrium Tape device per SCSI bus for maximum performance. No more than TWO Ultrium Tape devices per SCSI bus will be supported. An Ultrium device must never share a SCSI bus with any other SCSI peripheral type.

Even as it reported on Ultrium support for the 3000, Hawkins' paper reminded customers that a non-3000 host would be needed to maintain the storage devices. "Most diagnostic support for Ultrium drives comes from HP Storage Works Library and Tape Tools (a.k.a. LTT). LTT does not run on MPE/iX; therefore in some diagnostic scenarios the Ultrium may have to be removed from the HP e3000 and connected to a host running LTT." The design was so limited that only third-party software could communicate from the 3000 to the LTO units. Some diagnostics require that the tape unit be disconnected from the 3000.

MPE/iX support of Ultrium 215 and 230 devices is limited to parallel LVD-SCSI connections only. Thus, these devices may only be connected to HP e3000 A-Class and N-Class systems running MPE/iX 7.0 or 7.5 Release.

Only those HP Ultrium Tape devices sold for use with HP-UX PA-RISC server systems will be supported. There are variations in firmware for the many Ultrium devices on the market; only devices with the firmware for HP-UX server systems will be supported.

HP rolled out its first MPE/iX patches for LTO on the 3000 six years ago, but that work pretty much described the beginning and end of development. The latest linear tape products, designed for mid-size to enterprise-class businesses, offer four times the capacity as LTO-3 units and up to double the performance as their recent ancestors. The concept of using tape in place of disk storage is not new to the IT world, but support of a recent generation of LTO on the 3000 would be news indeed.

05:39 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink

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LTO tapes allows files and directories to appear on desktop and directory listings, file level access to data, supports data exchange

Posted by: LTO 5 tapes | Nov 12, 2010 5:48:52 AM

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