IBM is adding encryption as a standard feature on its enterprise-class tape storage drives.

The TS1120 tape drives will include native encryption capabilities from now on, the company said in a short statement. By placing the encryption capability on the drive itself, users won't have to eat up CPU cycles on servers or tax the network. IBM also announced that it will be offering encryption key management software.

Big Blue briefed analysts last month on its plan to include encryption at the drive level, but did not make a formal announcement at the time. Its addition, particularly the key management, is important for users who have been concerned about the security of their storage, particularly at remote offices.

Although high-profile losses of tapes and laptops have stimulated the industry to look at security, IT managers are "cool at best" about enforcing security at the storage device level because of performance concerns, said Data Mobility Group analyst John Webster. The inability to manage the keys was also possibly making data inaccessible by not being able to decrypt it, he added.

Performing encryption at the drive level also means that both compression and encryption can be performed at the same time. The centralized key management system works with both the z/OS mainframe operating system and with open systems. Pricing is not yet available.