Has Big Blue got it taped?

IBM produces its own proprietary, enterprise or mainframe line of tape drives, the 359X family. These are the top end of IBM's tape offering, underpinned by its mid-market LTO models, known in IBM-parlance as the 3580. We described LTO's characteristics here.

IBM also provides what it describes as complementary tape products:- - 7205 - a DLT or SDLT format drive. - 7206 - a 4mm DDS format drive, also in VXA-2 format. - 7207 - an SLR and QIC tape format drive. - 7208 - a Mammoth format drive.

You may encounter references to 3480 and 3490 drives. These are not current.

We cover IBM's older generation proprietary format, the 3590 in its B, E and H iterations first, and then look at the newer 3592 and its roadmap.

3590
This is a half inch linear tape format with tracks running up and down the tape. IBM provides three basic versions of this with progressively greater capacity.

IBM quotes high compression ratios, 3:1 in fact, higher than other vendors. The 3590 H can, it's said, transfer data at up to 70MB/sec with a Fibre Channel link. It's up to 34MB/sec using UltraSCSI. The drives can use mainframe ESCON and FICON channel interfaces as well as SCSI and Fibre Channel.

The 3590 B has 16 read/write heads and 128 tracks. The 3590 E has 16 heads and 256 tracks. The 3590 H has 16 heads again and 384 tracks. The use of BX, EX and HX cartridges doubles the capacity in the 3590 B, E and H drives respectively.

Host servers can be the various IBM servers plus Sun and HP Unix/True64 Unix systems.

3592
This is the future. Once again it is a half inch, linear format. The current 3592 drive has 8 read/write heads and 512 tracks. There are two future generations which IBM has indicated will lead to a cartridge with a terabyte capacity. We have extrapolated numbers from the 3592 to indicate the characteristics of them. These are our estimated numbers.

IBM has demonstrated a terabyte cartridge in its R&D facility. We might speculate that the second generation 3592 tape will arrive in 2005/ 6 and the third generation will appear in 2007/ 8.

The 3592 connects to hosts by FICON or ESCON channels or via Fibre Channel. Hosts can be mainframe, Unix and Windows servers.

This story, "Has Big Blue got it taped?" was originally published by Techworld.com.

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