HP StorageWorks Ultrium 3000 SAS review

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LTO Ultrium has done so well in the mid-range, enterprise tape backup market that it’s crushed the competition. In an exclusive review, we bring you the first look of its fifth generation of this successful tape format.

HP StorageWorks Ultrium 3000 SAS review

HP’s latest StorageWorks Ultrium 3000 SAS incorporates a half-height drive. HP also offers 3280 full-height drives, and all standalone models use a 6Gbits/sec SAS interface.

The focus for LTO-5 is capacity rather than performance, so native speed gets a modest boost to 140MB/sec. However, capacity has nearly doubled to 1.5TB – ideal for high-volume data archiving.

Introduced in LTO-4, the drive can perform 256-bit AES encryption and works with backup software that supports key management. Originally only the bundled Data Protector Express could do this, but now ARCserve r12.5 and Backup Exec 2010 offer support.

There are a number of new features on LTO-5’s horizon. The next firmware release offers partitioning, where a cartridge can be formatted into two partitions visible to the backup app as separate tapes. It will allow you to use LTFS (linear tape file system) to present a tape to the host OS such that it appears as a hard disk.

HP StorageWorks Ultrium 3000 SAS

The first partition stores a directory tree and the second stores data, supporting drag-and-drop copies. Mac and Linux hosts will be supported first, with Windows appearing later.

HP will also be launching its TapeAssure software tool. Run on the host system, it uses the tape drive’s own logs to provide reports on fault analysis and health monitoring.

For performance testing we used a Dell PowerEdge R810 rack server equipped with dual 2GHz X6550 Xeons, 128GB of DDR3 memory and Windows Server 2008 SP2. For fast local storage we used a Broadberry DAS storage array equipped with an octet of Seagate Cheetah 15K.7 SAS drives and connected via a dedicated LSI SAS controller.

The tape drive was placed on its own 6Gbits/sec SAS card and the Broadberry storage array configured as an eight drive RAID0 stripe. We used the bundled Data Protector Express Single Server for testing but called on ARCserve r12.5 too. Windows Server 2008 R2 will be supported by September.

Data Protector Express delivered the best results, securing our 100GB test data sample at a rate of 126MB/sec. However, ARCserve wasn’t far behind it, reporting average speeds of 120MB/sec.

We also tested the Data Protector Express encryption and with this enabled we saw backup speeds of 119MB/sec. There wasn’t much between the two products for restoration with the sample returned to the array at rates of 104MB/sec and 98MB/sec respectively.

Many pundits said tape was dead. They also said that LTO was at the end of its roadmap. HP’s 3000 SAS proves them wrong on both counts as LTO-5 delivers top performance and capacity, and HP recently announced a roadmap extension with three more generations to come, making LTO a good long-term investment.

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