Quantum Scalar i2000 Tape Library

Price
£40,600

Quantum's acquisition of ADIC in 2007 allowed it to gain a strong position in the global tape library market as the Scalar products have garnered a fine reputation with their sophisticated range of features. The i500 caters for mid-sized companies whilst the flagship i2000 on review is aimed squarely at enterprises and data centres requiring a highly manageable and expandable tape based backup and data archiving solution.

The main competition comes from vendors such as IBM and StorageTek but Quantum claims the i2000 stands out with its iPlatform technology which is designed to remove the most unreliable component of any backup strategy - the human element. Part of iPlatform is the iLayer management software resident on the library which allows it to provide enhanced reporting and diagnostics. Rather than simply collect data on faults and events iLayer actively analyses them, identifies the root cause and provides recommendations for corrective action. It can then send emails to either the reseller providing first tier support or Quantum support staff advising them of the problem. This process of self diagnosis is designed to reduce on-site visits by support staff and speed up fault resolution.

A new feature now accessible to the i2000 is Quantum's StorageCare Guardian global support network. This allows support staff to monitor Scalar tape libraries remotely where it will alert them if any products have notified the system of a problem. They can then securely access the library, run diagnostics and determine what action needs to be taken. Management capabilities get even better as full support for the SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification) allows the i2000 to be integrated into any compliant enterprise network management software such as HP's OpenView or EMC's ControlCenter.

The control chassis sports a large LCD touch screen which provides full access to all functions. You can view the status of every component including robotics, drives, I/O blades and power supplies and the respective icons are colour coded to highlight any issues. The library can be managed remotely via a web browser and the Java app provides exactly the same access as the local control panel. Usefully, you can implement local administrative access security as both SSL and LDAP are supported. Alerting is automated with policies which use thresholds for areas such as temperatures, controller functions and tape drives and send out email warnings if any are breached.

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Build quality is extremely good and this 42U chassis is very well designed. The compact robotics mechanics and storage bays located fore and aft allow it to provide a very high storage density. The chassis can handle up to twelve tape drives which are mounted in low profile slots at the rear and can be easily removed and replaced. The i2000 supports SDLT600, DLT-S4 and LTO-4 drives and along with SCSI versions Quantum offers the two latter models with FC connections.

Quantum's main focus is on FC connectivity as you can use its six-port I/O blades which each provide four ports for the tape drives and two for the network connections. We all know how expensive FC switch ports are and the blades aim to reduce these requirements. The latest models now support 4Gbps speeds and can also provide port failover with primary and secondary FC ports. A smart feature is the blades can be used to detect the firmware running on each tape drive making it possible to synchronise all versions. There's more as they can run diagnostics on the physical FC cable from the library right up to the backup server to ensure the connection is present before a backup is initiated. In fact, the I/O blades make a very convincing argument in their favour as they can also use LUN mapping to allow individual tape drives to be assigned to specific hosts and will also mask them from other servers preventing them from being used by unauthorised hosts.

The library itself offers more useful features as it can ensure that physical drive location addresses always remain the same even if a drive is replaced. It can spoof the WWN for each slot so backup jobs won't be affected and it can also spoof drive serial numbers - useful for applications such as Symantec's NetBackup which employs a device database which registers a drive serial number with a physical location.

Expansion potential of earlier i2000 models was always good but Quantum has increased this massively as you can now add a further seven full height units to the right of the control chassis. The expansion chassis link seamlessly with the main unit to become a single entity as the horizontal rails and drive belts for the robotics are simply extended into each new unit. They are also linked to the management module so the unit can be managed as a single library.

Up to 96 tape drives are supported and dependant on the drive configuration the cartridge slot count can be as high as 3,492 but Quantum uses a flexible licensing system which starts with 100 slots. These are increased in increments of 100 so you just add more as demand increases. When it comes to adding another chassis you only pay for the number of slots you want. Supported drive types can be mixed and matched as required and a powerful feature is partitioning as cartridge slots and tape drives can be separated into virtual libraries that appear to the backup software applications as physically separate libraries. Opting for LTO-4 drives and media brings the optional Q-EKM (Quantum Enterprise Key Manager) into play. This data encryption management system runs on either a Red Hat Linux or Windows Server 2003 platform where it centralises backup encryption key management. This looks a good alternative to backup data encryption appliances which are comparatively expensive.

Despite the high growth in disk-based backup solutions, there will continue to be a clear need for libraries in the enterprise to provide essential tape, off-site storage, archival and data protection facilities. The Scalar i2000 delivers on a number of counts as it offers an unbeatable expansion potential but a key differentiator over competing products are its high levels of inbuilt intelligence.

Verdict

The i2000 delivers an enterprise level tape library solution that looks reasonably good value and delivers a truly massive expansion potential, a quality range of remote management features and sophisticated diagnostics.

Control module: 42U chassis Maximum cartridge slots - 300, min 100 slots license Max twelve tape drives Supports SCSI SDLT600/DLT-S4/LTO-4 and FC DLT-S4/LTO-4 tape drives LCD control panel 24-slot mailbox Supports up to seven expansion chassis for a maximum of 96 tape drives and 3,492 cartridge slots

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