HP StorageWorks Ultrium 1840 review

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In the mid-range backup market, no other tape format has proved to be as popular as LTO Ultrium and, in this exclusive review, we bring you the first look at the fourth generation – in the form of the StorageWorks Ultrium 1840.

HP StorageWorks Ultrium 1840 review

LTO-4 delivers an impressive 800GB native capacity, with HP quoting a native 120MB/sec. Note that for this claim HP uses the “marketing megabyte”, so it actually pans out to 114MB/sec in the real world. A new feature is that the drive can perform hardware encryption. We’ve heard plenty of stories about tapes being lost in transit, making it imperative that data remains secure no matter whose hands the tapes end up in. The 1840 performs 256-bit AES encryption using GCM (Galois Counter Mode), which delivers high speeds and low latency. The drive is designed to work with a separate key management system, but, at the moment, the only product that supports this is the bundled Data Protector Express. This passes the key entered by the user to the drive, which it then uses to encrypt the data as it’s being backed up.

To get the best out of the 1840, you’ll need a quality setup, and to this end we opted for a Supermicro dual 3GHz Xeon 5160 server running Windows Server 2003 R2. Local storage on most servers won’t be fast enough, so we used an IBM System Storage DS3200 4Gb/sec FC disk array as the backup source. The 1840 was connected to an Adaptec Ultra320 adapter and, for backup software, we used the bundled Data Protector Express and CA’s ARCserve 11.5 SP3.

ARCserve delivered the best results, with it securing a 15.3GB mixture of data from the IBM array at a rate of 106MB/sec. Data Protector was markedly slower, completing the same task at an average of 88MB/sec. We then ran the same backup task with encryption enabled, and saw speeds drop down to 79MB/sec. Restoration speeds will be dependent on the hardware, as even the IBM array reported only a raw write throughput of 101MB/sec. The best we saw when returning the data to its original location on the array came from ARCserve, with it reporting 74MB/sec.

To test media interchange, we ran a backup of the test data to a StorageWorks Ultrium 960 tape drive and had no problems restoring data from the tape when it was inserted in the 1840. You’ll also see performance benefits if you continue using LTO-3 tapes for backup, as ARCserve returned backup speeds of 95MB/sec – a 15% improvement over the Ultrium 960 drive.

Yet again, LTO Ultrium delivers on all counts and introduces valuable hardware data-encryption capabilities. Its popularity may also have been responsible for the demise of its only competition, as earlier this year Quantum quietly stopped all further development of its DLT products. The demand of the Ultrium 1840 for the best server and storage hardware mustn’t be ignored, but if you can keep up with it then you’ll find this is the fastest tape drive in the world.

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