Mammoth-2 gets a head start on the next generation

Mammoth-2 gets a head start on the next generation

Next-generation Super Digital Linear Tape and Advanced Intelligent Tape drives and those built around the new Linear Tape Open specification are expected to push tape drive capacity to new heights.

One product is already on its way. The Mammoth-2 drive from Exabyte Corp. began shipping earlier this year.

Company officials claim the drive offers 50 percent more capacity and twice the performance of other options. Those claims were largely confirmed in recent tests performed by KeyLabs Inc. of Lindon, Utah.

Exabyte's Mammoth-2 provides 60G of storage and can back up 43.2G per hour. Its price ranges from $4,995 to $5,395.

The independent test house compared drive performance in typical backup and restore situations using a variety of hardware, operating systems, software applications and data sets. M2 outperformed Quantum Corp.'s DLT8000 and Sony's SDX-500C tape drives in all tests, according to the report.

Speed demon

When connected to a Dell PowerEdge 6350 server running Microsoft Windows NT and Veritas Backup Exec 8.0, the M2 drive backed up 17G of data at a rate of 30.1 megabytes/sec. The closest competitor, Quantum's DLT8000 drive, came in at 8.9 megabytes/sec.

Head-to-tape speed plays a major role in any drive's performance. As tape drive vendors maximize the relative speed at which the magnetic media moves across the read or write heads, they increase data transfer rate.

DLT tape drives achieve a high head-to-tape speed by moving the tape very rapidly past a stationary head.'The need to move the tape rapidly, as well as having to stop and reverse direction to record the next set of tracks, puts a lot of stress on the tape.

MammothTape uses an 8-mm helical scan technology that differs significantly from other backup products.

Rather than accelerate the tape, the tape is routed around a rapidly rotating scanner on which the read and write heads are mounted. This approach allows the M2 drive to run a tape at much slower speeds, resulting in significantly less stress on the tape.

Although helical scan technology has differed from linear approaches such as DLT in this way for many years, the M2 drive adds a number of innovations to improve performance and reliability. A dual-reel tape transport system called TapeSafe, for example, eliminates the primary source of tape damage'the capstan-and-pinch-roller system traditionally used to move the tape through the tape path. Moreover, an air-cushioned tape-to-scanner interface controls the movement of the tape over the heads and helps eliminate drag.

Another innovation, called SmartClean, simplifies tape drive maintenance. A dynamic cleaning wheel gently wipes the surface of the scanner whenever the tape drive senses that a cleaning is needed.

A new tape cartridge further automates maintenance by eliminating under-cleaning, a leading cause of tape drive failures, and overcleaning, a cause of premature head wear.

Bigger and better

The new drive also boosts performance by integrating advancements in scanner design, which make it possible to increase the number of read-write channels.

Advanced signal processing techniques, enhanced error correction and improved data compression help the drive pack as much information as possible into the signal and ensure that errors are eliminated.

The drive comes in an industry-standard, 5.25-inch, half-height form factor and is backward-read-compatible with Exabyte's earlier 8-mm helical scan tape products.

A kit containing a single drive with an internal low-voltage differential wide interface, one Advanced Metal Evaporated tape cartridge and necessary cables sells for $4,995.

'John H. Mayer

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