ADIC has announced the Scalar i500 modular library. It replaces the Scalar 100 (1-6 drives, 15-72 slots) and can have up to 18 drives and 36 to 404 cartridge slots. It is aimed straight at Sun DM's StreamLine 500 and Quantum's modular PX500 range. (There must be something about the 500 number.) The SL500 can also have up to 18 drives but has a higher slot count of 575.

ADIC's EMEA product marketing director, Steve Mackey, says the i500 consists of a control unit and expansion modules. It is sold as three pre-configured base systems: 5U - 2 drives and 36 slots; 14U - to 6 drives and 128 slots; and 23U high - to 10 drives and 220 slots. Expansion units have up to 4 drives and 92 slots.

According to Mackey the i500 is unlike Sun DMG's (StorageTek as was) in that the control unit can be located anywhere in the rack of units. Customers can install modules themselves. Software wizards help this.

Each component adds its part to the vertical robot carrier and the robot travels up and down the full height of the library; control unit plus expansion modules. There is no pass-through, making cartridge fetching and storing quicker.

The library unit features a capacity-on-demand feature with only some slots enabled at first. As a customers archive needs increase additional slots can be activated allowing an instant capacity upgrade.

It also features integrated support for SMI-S. This means that storage resource management software, such as EMC's ControlCenter can discover and manage the i500. Mackey says it is the first such library to have integrated SMI-S support.

The i500 can be partitioned down to a single slot level. Partitioning could be used to set up virtual libraries or, in the future, ones dedicated to specific media. Initially only the LT0 3 format is supported but support for more formats is coming.

The Fibre Channel I/O is based on a blade architecture and Mackey says iSCSI or SAS may be supported in the future.

There is a proactive monitoring function which sends out alerts if errors or approaching errors are detected. For example, the use of a cleaning tape past its rated number of cycles will be alerted to system management contacts by e-mail or some other medium.

ADIC found that the use of this technology on the i2000 library resulted in the number of service calls dropping by half.

The i500 overlaps the i2000 - 100 to 3,400+ cartridge slots - at the bottom of its capacity range. It is preceded in ADIC's line-up by the twin-drive Scalar 24.

Competing products
Overland Storage doesn't have a modular library in this class. Its NEO 8000 can have from 2 to 24 drives and up to 1000 slots. The NEO 4200 can between 2 and 8 drives and 100 to 120 slots

Quantum's modular series of PX500 libraries will compete against ADIC's Scalar i500. The PX510 can have up to 10 drives and 171 slots. The PX502 has up to 2 drives and 38 slots. The PX506 has up to six drives and 100 slots. They also support more formats: LTO 2; LTO 3; and SDLT 600. These libraries have an infra-red positioning system to ensure that the robot carriers line up as the units are stacked in a rack.

SpectraLogic's T120 is a full height rack library with six to ten drives and up to four frames with cartridge pass-through. It supports both LTO and Sony's SAIT format and the RXT removable disk media is due soon. SpectraLogic doesn't have a modular library offering equivalent to the ADIC and Quantum models. It does have a capacity on demand feature though.

Modular library appeal
Modular libraries are attractive because customers can start small and grow big. With LTO 3 and its 4000GB capacity cartridges a modular library can hold a large amount of data. Some can grow upwards within a rack. Others can grow sideways by adding rack frames. These tend to have much large capacity limits.

Customer-installable modules are attractive because engineer visits are not needed. The complexity comes with making sure the robotics work. Such things as infra-red linkups help here as does the ability to pass through a cartridge from one module's robot to another.

ADIC seems to have got the ability to have only one robot passing up and down a carrier through all the modules. It is not revealing how it does this. It's also seemingly used its EMC relationship to good effect by creating an SMI-S library, one that can be managed by SMI-S-based overall storage management products.

It seems likely that this will be offered by other library vendors.

There is no hint from ADIC about which other tape formats might be supported and when. With LTO, in effect, taking over the enterprise Unix/Wintel server tape backup world we'd imagine there isn't a pressing rush to add either SDLT or SAIT to its set of supported formats. Naturally the i500 is compatible with ADIC's PathLight VX disk-to-disk backup product.

No pricing information was available. Availability should be by year end.

PS
Regarding the takeover for Overland Storage, Mackey was as quiet as a mouse. But then ADIC sent Overland's board another letter...