StorageTek: Premium Choice

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2004-01-16 Print this article Print

Their customers say the storage products are expensive and proprietary. That's offset by a history of reliability and strong support.

StorageTek has kept up a healthy lead in the category it invented in 1987 (customers started calling those first automated libraries "tape silos"), and has recovered from its financial distress in the late 1990s. While even some loyal fans describe its products as expensive and proprietary, they say the gear is worth every penny.

"I can definitely say they're not the price leader," says Steve Yee, I.T. project manager at John C. Lincoln Health Network in Phoenix. "But especially with the regulatory requirements in the healthcare market, going with the lowest-cost vendor may not be the best option for us." The two-hospital group also operates a few ADIC libraries, but Yee says StorageTek is its library platform of choice primarily because of the company's strong support.

Charles Miller, senior VP of enterprise mainframe servers at KeyCorp, says his biggest concern with StorageTek is that its high- capacity tape format is proprietary. "It's like having Sony Betamax instead of VHS," he says. KeyCorp is evaluating a move to disk-based archives, but Miller says the bank will certainly keep some tape storage.

A year ago, R.L. Polk bought 15 of StorageTek's proprietary 9940A drives even though at $36,000 a pop they were more than 10 times the price of the Digital Linear Tape (DLT) drives it was replacing. "The true deciding factor was the amount of data we have here," says backup administrator David Focht.

Each week, Polk backs up 20 terabytes of data. With the new drives, it dropped the backup time on its Oracle databases from 12 hours to less than 30 minutes. Focht says he expects the cost of the whole project—about $700,000—to pay back in 18 months because of the reliability of the drives, combined with smaller backup windows.

Reliability is even more crucial for organizations in far-flung locales. The Arctic Region Supercomputing Center (ARSC), which provides high-performance computational services for scientific researchers, is in Fairbanks, Alaska. That makes getting on-site service a real challenge because technicians must travel from Seattle, says Gene McGill, ARSC's storage specialist. "We've had StorageTek libraries on the old Crays since 1993, and they've been extremely reliable," he says. "The robotics have been just rock-solid."

ARSC's Gene McGill gives storagetek libraries kudos for reliability—vital when the nearest service techs are 1,500 miles away.

StorageTek One StorageTek Drive, Louisville, CO 80028
(303) 673-2800 / www.storagetek.com

Ticker: STK
Exchange: NYSE
Employees: 7,100

Gary Francis
VP, General Manager, Automated Tape Solutions
Oversees tape products, including drives, libraries and related software. He's held various management positions since joining the company in 1976.

Jon Benson
VP Engineering and Product Line Manager, Automated Tape Solutions
Heads product development for tape libraries.

L-Series libraries provide from 10 to 5,500 tape slots. At the high end, PowderHorn 9310 provides high capacity (up to 1,200 terabytes natively). The older TimberWolf is scheduled to be phased out next year. StreamLine modular libraries, to be available by mid-2004, are designed for higher densities and will hold up to 200,000 tapes. Software includes Virtual Storage Manager (VSM) for increasing tape utilization in mainframe environments. Also sells tape drives, disk storage and storage networking products.

Reference Checks

R.L. Polk
David Focht
Backup Administrator
Project: Provider of consumer data to the automotive industry uses a PowderHorn 9310 with 15 StorageTek 9940A drives.

Steve Yee
I.T. Project Manager
Project: Hospital network uses TimberWolf 9714 and L40 libraries for primary backup.

Charles Miller
Senior VP, Data Center Engineering and Operations
Project: Bank runs check and document archiving mainframe system on four Powder-Horn tape libraries with 62 high-capacity StorageTek 9840 drives. Replaced IBM virtual tape software with two VSM servers, which cut tape requirements by 75%.

Grant Thornton
Dave Johnson
Director, Infrastructure Technology
Project: Accounting firm consolidates backup from 51 local offices to L80 libraries at four regional hubs. Also runs one L180 at its primary data center.

National Gypsum
Dan Burger
Senior Manager of Computer Operations
Project: Building materials supplier's PowderHorn 9310, which holds up to 700 gigabytes of data, is connected to its IBM mainframe.

Arctic Region Supercomputing Center
Gene McGill
Storage Specialist
(907) 474-5507
Project: Two PowderHorn 9310s with roughly 3,000 terabytes of capacity support two Cray supercomputers and two SunFire 6800 servers.

Executives listed here are all users of StorageTek products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.


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