Spectra Logic grows out high-end HPC tape offering

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Spectra Logic logoEarlier this week storage manufacturer Spectra Logic announced that they were growing out the high end of their tape storage offering with the T-Finity tape library. With capacity for 30,000 slots in a maxed out library, or up to 120,000 slots in a 4 library complex, T-Finity is aimed at those planning now for a data-rich future.

What’s that in person-years?

Spectra Logic is one of those companies that just quietly innovates and builds market share until, one day, they are everywhere. The privately-held company is 30 years old — an ancient company by tech standards — is profitable, and operates on the principal of debt-free growth. With all the turmoil in the high-end tape storage market caused by the questionable future of Sun and its STK line of products, Spectra is in a good position these days.

The company’s line of storage offerings scales from the nTier 500 disk-based system at the low end, up through the T-series of tape systems. Previously their offering topped out with the T950, launched in 2003. This system starts at 950 slots in 1 frame, and can grow up to 120 drives and 10,050 tape slots with a total capacity of 16 PB (I wrote in detail about the T950 here).

Designed with HPC in mind

TeraPack imageOne of the key differentiators for Spectra’s tape offerings is density: Spectra Logic tape libraries bundle of tapes in trays, called TeraPacks (image at right), which hold ten tapes each. The density advantage is highlighted by a case study the company uses from NASA Ames, where 10 STK silos were replaced with 2 Spectra T950 libraries, increasing total capacity from 12 PB to 32 PB and saving 1,400 sq feet of data center space. This case study also reveals a bit about the company’s marketing strategy: with the ubiquitous STK 9310 silos going end of service life next year, there are a lot of potential Spectra Logic customers out there looking for a solution.

T-Finity dramatically expands on the T950, growing total capacity to 45 PB in a single library, or 180 PB in a library complex. A single library extends from 3 to 25 frames configured linearly with up to 2 robots and 480 tape drives. A maxed-out library extends 65 feet, and a library complex puts up to four rows side-by-side, facilitating pass-through among the libraries.

According to Molly Rector, Spectra Logic’s vice president for product management, the T-Finity was developed with extensive input from the company’s advisory panel, over half of which comes from the HPC space. This HPC flavor is reflected in everything from the density (72 TB/sq ft compared to 50 in the Sun STK SL8500), to the dual robotics offering higher availability and service while the system remains up, to the power consumption. The T-Finity uses half the power per unit of data stored that the IBM TS3500 and STK SL8500 require (0.35 watts/TB versus 2 watts/TB for the TS3500 and 1.59 watts/TB for the SL8500).

Getting the word out

Spectra Logic already has a partnership with SGI (announced at SC08), and they’ve just recently inked a deal with Cray as well. This deal puts the first T-Finity system in as part of the Korean Meteorological Administration deal announced in early September. Rector says that the win was a natural for Spectra, given the very large installed base the company has in Korea thanks to an aggressive reseller in the region.

The T-Finity is also installed at Argonne and NASA Ames as part of a beta program. If you’d like to get up close and personal with one, stop by Spectra Logic’s booth at SC09, where they’ll have a five frame system on the show floor.