Breece Hill has introduced what it claims is the highest capacity and highest performance autoloader on the market.

The 5TB 10-pak works with Sony's SAIT-1 drive, using Sony's Write-Once-Read-Many (WORM) capability to prevent accidental erasure or alteration of data.

A tape autoloader can store several day's worth of data, possibly a couple of weeks, before it has to have new tape cartridges inserted in it, and so the autoloader is aimed squarely at the expanding compliance and data retention market. It has ten slots for ten 500GB cartridges but can manage a maximum capacity of 13TB with a 2.6:1 compression ratio.

The device is integrated with XenData's Archive Series Software which "provides legal compliance and lifecycle management for your digital documents", and was announced earlier this month. The software writes data simultaneously to the tape in the autoloader and to external RAID storage, not included, providing both online access and archival storage. Connected client servers just see a disk-based CIFS or NFS device; the tape autoloader is transparent to them.

The software virtualises the RAID and tape library on a Windows Server, making these physical storage devices appear as a standard rewritable logical drive letter. This allows standard applications to work with the XenData software without any special interface.

It helps companies that have to comply with regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA, as data on the WORM tape is unalterable, plus there is a utility to retrieve all versions of a file and deleted files in a comprehensive audit trail.

However, there is no functionality to remove duplicate data items as there can be with content-addressed storage such as EMC's Centera and Permabit's Permeon which we described here.

There is also no RAID array included with the autoloader. It appears to be only half a product and contrasts oddly with Breece Hill's iStoRA 4000 Disk-to-Disk-to-Tape Appliance. That combines a set of SATA disks with a 10-slot autoloader, precisely the hardware the XenData software has been designed for. It supports LTO, VS80 and SDLT600 formats, all half inch formats, but not Sony's SAIT-1, which is also a half-inch format.

Breece Hill states it will extend the SAIT technology to an iStoRA81 product later this year. Interestingly, or oddly, the company's data sheet on the iStoRA 4000 series does include SAIT as a supported format, but doesn't mention the XenData software.

XenData Archive Series Software also supports the range of WORM-enabled SAIT tape libraries from Qualstar with capacities from 16.5TB to 132TB. XenData has already supplied production software for WORM-enabled Qualstar SAIT libraries with over 150TB in total capacity.

Dr Phil Storey, XenData's CEO, said: "Our software manages the complete server, incorporating both RAID and WORM tape. For archives greater than ten terabytes, SAIT-WORM managed by XenData software provides a compelling solution because it delivers high performance at a fraction of the cost of other WORM approaches." This means either hard drive arrays made WORM-like through software or optical storage arrays and software.

Pricing of Archive Series Software for SAIT libraries from Qualstar is from $23,950, approximately £13,300, and depends on the type of library supported. The Qualstar libraries do not include any disks.

Breece Hill's SAIT 10-pak autoloader is £8,878. A combined price for the SAIT-10-pak autoloader and XenData software is £12,644. The Breece Hill iStoRA 4000 (LTO2 version) is £10,504. This suggests the iStoRA81 product with XenData SW would be around £15,000.