Sun customers are suffering problems in the supply of spares for tape library robot systems. Sun may also be experiencing engineer departures in the tape robotics area.

At the recent Sun Forum in Denver, Ian White, senior VP for global customers' services, admitted that there were problems in the tape library service area. There had been a planned move from a Puerto Rico facility, scheduled to close, to one on the American mainland. Despite it being, as he said, 'well-planned' and executed well there had been shortages in the supply of spares for tape library robots.

Such robots are computer-controlled mechanical systems that pick tape cartridges out of their slots in an automated tape library, such as the SL8500, and transfer them to and from tape drives for data reading and writing.

The SL8500 has four so-called handbots which are each responsible for a horizontal set of tape cartridge slots in 13 rows running around the U-shaped library. A problem necessitating a part replacement could be lengthened if spares are delayed, meaning the part of the library served by the affected handbot would be affected and possibly non-operational.

Attendees at the conference, users of Sun StorageTek automated tape products, appreciated the openness in White's statement. He said the issue was being energetically worked on and should be solved very soon.

A person at Storage Expo, who is fairly close to Sun's StorageTek operation, suggested that some robotics people at Sun had issues about working there and were leaving.

Sun was asked to comment on this but was unable to do so in time for this story.

The company is soon to introduce a tape library, with down-sized SL8500 technology for the mid-range tape archiving market, code-named Crimson. This uses a newly-developed robot, running the full height of the library, unlike the SL8500 handbots, and called a tallbot.