Sun is spot-changing again, in a nice way though, if you are a StorageTek 9840 tape user. Recently we covered Imation's disk-in-a-tape cartridge technology. Here was Imation, renowned for its tape media expertise amongst other things, doing a new thing with disk to disk backup - the disk is in a tape cartridge form factor and can live in a tape library.

At the time it was clear that Imation needed partners to develop the technology and take it to market. Now Sun and Imation have agreed to develop an extension to the existing Sun StorageTek T9840 drive platform and 'investigate alternative recording media technologies, including Imation's Ulysses technology, for potential future integration into Sun's automated tape library product line'.

The 9840C is a 40GB raw capacity format drive with fast access. It has been, we thought, effectively superseded by the T10000, a half terabyte-class format following on from the 200GB-capacity 9940B. The assumption was that the future direction was to focus on capacity and leave the 9840 where it was. Wrong.

Fast access tape is prized by mainframe users, who tape as a kind of quasi cache - and Sun is about to publicly announce its new mainframe-friendly image.

So we have a resumed performance-focus tape direction and a disk-in-a-tape product development. Could we speculate about two things? Firstly, a follow-on 9840D offering around 80GB raw capacity and twice the performance of the 9840C. Secondly, a new 9840-class device which is actually a virtual tape drive with Ulysses cartridges mounted in it to provide disk speed instead of tape streaming speed? It's capacity could be 200-300GB or greater and the performance greater than the supposed 9840D. This kind of focus and roadmap might well appeal to mainframe users.