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IBM tries to reenergize storage with host of midmarket products, focus on channel

IBM is trying to enthuse its channel with a host new products, including encrypted tape and higher-throughput mid-market archiving systems aimed at mid-sized companies.

IBM is launching five new storage product upgrades today -- adding encryption to midmarket tape, a new virtualization engine, new half-height tape drive that reduces space requirements and improved archiving for customers in vertical markets.

The product blitz targets conservative storage customers who want to stick with Big Blue for the long haul. Still, a closer look at what's new reveals the pain points IBM customers have complained about, and the role Big Blue sees for itself in the developing storage market.

Linear Tape Open technologies

For starters, the company is bringing encryption to the midmarket with the introduction of its Linear Tape Open (LTO) Generation 4 system, which has encryption key manager software for added safety of customer's critical data.

Customers using the previous generation, LTO 3, will get performance improvements of 50 percent in data throughput; they'll also get double the capacity at 1.6 terabytes (TB) of storage.

The LTO 4 TS3500 tape, which is designed for enterprise customers, can scale up to 16 frames, hold 192 tape drives and over 6,000 cartridge slots that can store up to 10 petabytes (PB) of data.

A system like the TS2340 tape drive is a better fit for the midmarket, especially when used with the LTO 4, which gives a native data transfer rate of 120 MB per second and 800 GB native capacity or 1.6 terabytes with 2:1 compression. The LTO 4 works with other tape libraries like the TS3100, TS3200 and the TS3310.

IBM partner Francis Poeta, president of Cliffside Park, N.J.-based P & M Computers Inc thinks the LTO 4 encryption is a feature that will go down well with midsized storage customers.

"These are very valuable additions to the total storage brand, and should help VARs to satisfy the customer's exponentially growing data needs," Poeta said. "Tape is not going away, and for medium-size customers their tape encryption needs have to be addressed. The LTO 4 tape encryption features should satisfy their needs," Poeta said.

Virtual Tape Library (VTL) advancements

IBM has also added 3 Gbs per second dual port serial-attached SCSI (SAS) to its TS3100.

"SAS is actually a new interface for us. It's an up and coming interface in the industry so we are coming out with our tape drives with SAS drives on them," said Charlie Andrews, director of product marketing for IBM systems storage.

Big Blue also announced a virtualization engine for open systems TS7520 -- a bundled hardware and software package designed to create virtual tape for open systems servers connected over Fibre Channel.

However the TS7520 also comes with iSCSI connections. It also has improved caching, encryption capabilities, hardware assisted compression to improve system performance with replication and encryption and adheres to Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP) to provide NAS connections for data transfer over networks. The TS7520 holds up to 512 virtual libraries, 4,096 virtual drives and 128,000 virtual volumes.

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Expanding its midrange tape storage capabilities, IBM said its TS3100 and TS3200 tape libraries will support IBM's LTO half height tape drives for customers who want to save space and lower costs. They also come with a SAS interface.

Disk based backup

The newly announced archiving and retention systems, IBM's DR550 and DR550 Express version 4.0, are bundles of hardware and software that can be outfitted with the new DR550 file system gateway that has encryption features and data shredding for those customer that want to permanently delete data. The file system gateway offers file archiving and works with network file system(NFS) and common internet file system applications (CIFS).

"This is important. Now your opening up to NFS and CIFS and so it's able to potentially work with a lot more applications which is significant for their customers," said Heidi Biggar, analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group.

Finally, IBM announced that through an OEM agreement with Bycast Inc. the company will offer multilevel grid access manager (GMA) software to access, reference and mange data at remote sites and sitting on heterogeneous storage devices. IBM hopes to expand GMA's use in vertical markets like healthcare and the media industry.

Channel partners lead sales

With these products, IBM will be turning to its channel partners to push products to customers said Andrews.

"We sell more of our total LTO line through VARs than we do through our direct sales representatives, especially as you get down to the midmarket," Andrews said.

Andrews also said the DR550 products are mostly sold through VARs who also build the compliance systems and software the systems support.

The GMA product will initially have a more direct sales focus, Andrews said, while the TS7500 virtualization system will have a blend of direct and indirect sales.

IBM's LTO 4 tape storage system will be available April 27 with a list price of $5,170.

IBM's virtualization engine TS7500 will be available June 8; pricing is not yet available.

The IBM LTO 3 half-height tape drives will be available in June starting at $4,800 for LVD SCSI and $5,000 with SAS attachment.

The DR550 file system gateway starts at a list price of $6,000 and along with the DR550 and DR550 express version 4.0 will be available June 8.

The IBM multilevel grid access manager will be available June 1 at a list price of $6,000.

Let us know what you think about this story; email: Nicole Lewis, Senior News Writer.

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