Storage products: Exabyte leaps forward with autoloader backup

VXA-2 Packet Loader

Company: Exabyte Corp., Boulder, Colo. www.exabyte.com.

Nutshell: 1U tape autoloader has 10 cartridge slots for 1.6T total capacity, fast data transfer rate, reliable accuracy and field-replaceable drives.

Price: $2,500.

Why it won: Provides high-capacity, automated backup at a price usually associated with single-drive tape backup systems that must be changed daily.

The VXA-2 is an autoloader with 10 drives, and 1.6T total capacity.

Given the choice, most systems administrators would have an autoloader system for network backup. But many remote offices can't afford such a robust system, so they're stuck with a single-drive backup tape that needs to be changed daily to keep important files safe.

The VXA-2 Packet Loader from Exabyte Corp. could change all that; it breaks the mold when it comes to backup drive performance.

You can buy a VXA-2 for $2,500, which is what you'd pay for most single-drive systems. But you get an auto-loader with 10 drives, each with 160G of storage capacity'1.6T total. Suddenly, government administrators could trade daily tasks for simple weekly maintenance.

But it's not just price versus performance that makes the VXA-2 an impressive and innovative piece of hardware. The features that come standard with the VXA-2 are more often associated with mid-level backup systems. It has a bar code reader, random library operation capabilities and a remote operational interface. And it only takes up 1U of space in a rack.

Rapid transfer

The unit is also fast. It can transfer up to 43.2 gigabytes per hour, which is above average for most tape backup systems, at any price.

The VXA-2 'opens the door for an enormous number of small to midsize government agencies and agency branches to graduate up to automated backup for the first time,' said James Jackson, Exabyte's VXA product manager.

Of course, accuracy is as important as speed, perhaps even more important, and the VXA-2 excels in this area as well.

Exabyte has created a unique read/write packet architecture for putting the data onto a tape and removing it. Each packet is checked for integrity as it is written and after it is written. The company says this makes their tapes 100 times more reliable than standard tape systems.

The packet architecture of data on the tape drive is one of the reasons the VXA-2 can maintain such high speed: The drive is much more efficient at placing packets than if it tried to manage data in a continuous stream as most other backup drives do.

And if your agency expands or simply outgrows the VXA-2 storage capacity, Exabyte makes it easy. The VXA-2 is the only 1U storage device the GCN Lab has ever seen with a field-replaceable drive.

That means you can replace or upgrade to future VXA storage backup products on your own, without either sending the system away to be repaired or buying an entirely new unit.

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