ADIC Scalar i500

Dave Mitchell takes a look at ADIC's latest enterprise LTO expandable tape library

Price
£11,300

ADIC's Scalar family of tape libraries have traditionally delivered an impressive range of innovative features with its iPlatform and iLayer technologies offering enterprise level scalability and management. First introduced in the Scalar i2000 library, ADIC has integrated these two technologies into its latest Scalar i500 to deliver the same features to mid-sized businesses. A big idea behind the i500 is that companies can buy the capacity they need now and expand easily as backup demand increases.

The i500 library begins with the 5U base unit which provides 36 tape slots and support for a pair of tape drives. Once you outgrow this you can currently add up to two 9U expansion units with each offering an extra 96 slots and support for four more tape drives. The iPlatform robotics design comes into play here as you can add the expansion units without incurring any downtime and they can be positioned above or below the base unit. The changer arm robotics operate vertically through the centre of each module, new units are connected directly without requiring complex pass-through mechanisms and the entire process is tool-free.

Tape drives choices currently extend to LTO-2 and LTO-3 with either SCSI or FC (fibre channel) interfaces. At present the drives can only be directly attached to a host server or FC switch but plans are afoot to integrate the same I/O blades as found in the i2000. These aggregate the tape drive FC ports for connection to an FC switch in a SAN and also provide additional management capabilities.

Adding extra drives in the expansion units doesn't affect their slot count and you can elect to have a six-slot import/export bay in the main unit and up to eighteen more in each expansion module. To ensure you're not paying over the top for unused capacity ADIC uses a simple licensing system for the library slots. These are licensed in increments of 46 so it's possible to add an expansion module but only activate those slots you actually need. We were also advised by ADIC that it plans to increase the expansion capabilities of the i500 to support four expansion modules by October allowing it to handle up to eighteen tape drives and 404 cartridge slots. Seeing as Quantum announced it was acquiring ADIC in May this year we would expect tape drive support to extend to DLT drives. However, at the time of writing ADIC was unable to confirm this.

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ADIC's iLayer technology delivers levels of reporting and diagnostics facilities that few other vendors can match. Rather than simply collect data on faults and events it actively analyses them, identifies the root cause and offers recommendations for corrective actions.

Administrators have total control over this process and can allow the library to email ADIC's support staff with details of the problem and let them run an ActiveX diagnostics tool on the library. It gets even better as the i500 supports the SMI-S (Storage Management Initiative Specification) so it can be integrated into enterprise network management software such as IBM Tivoli, HP OpenView and EMC ControlCenter.

The latter provides a global view of all storage arrays and ADIC libraries from the same window and allows you to see all the individual components and launch the remote web interface.

Naturally, performance will depend on your choice of tape drive but from our own tests we have found that in the right environment all LTO drives deliver on the manufacturer's promises.

Using an 2Gbps FC disk array as a backup source and with a SCSI LTO-2 tape drive connected to a dual Xeon server running Windows Server 2003 we saw Computer Associates ARCserve r11.5 report an average backup speed of 36MB/sec. With an LTO-3 tape drive in the mix we saw average backup speed increase to a mighty impressive 81MB/sec.

However, if you use an LTO-3 drive to secure data on the same server it is attached to expect to see performance determined by the speed of the hard disk sub-system. In general, if you are using Ultra320 hard disks in a RAID-5 array you can expect to see around 60MB/sec tops.

Traditionally, mid-range businesses that want to scale up to a fully fledged tape library have been faced with a frightening rise in costs. With its unique expansion capabilities and licensing system, the Scalar i500 can easily soften the blow by allowing companies to buy only what they need and then activate extra slots as required.

Verdict

A highly scaleable tape library that's priced just right for mid-size businesses and delivers a unique expansion program and quality management and diagnostics facilities

5U base unit; 1 x LTO-2 FC tape drive, 36 library slots; 1 x hot-swap power supply; integral barcode reader; local and web browser management. Options: 5U base unit and 9U expansion module; 2 x LTO-3 FC tape drives, 36 licensed library slots - £26,700 exc. VAT.

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