Hard Drives Instead of Tapes? 70 TB Backup RAID at the University of Tübingen

Will Hard Drives Edge Out Tape Drives? The University Of Tübingen Shows The Way

The great-grandaddy of modern PCs has been reconstructed in the University computer center: the calculator Schickard built for his friend, Johannes Kepler, in the 17th century. It can perform the four basic calculations.

Sure, only a handful of our readers have ever come face to face with teraByte-scale backups. But you have to admit that the idea does hold a certain intrigue: just imagine a storage system comprising 70 TB in total, made entirely of standard IDE hard drives! Sound daring? Well, it is!

When we were at CeBIT, 3Ware invited us to come look at a hard-drive array built using their RAID controllers. We did a double take when we saw the specifications: hundreds of hard drives, a total of 70 TB - and all that for, did we hear that right, backups? Surely, the experts will just shake their heads at this point; rarely, if ever, are IDE hard drives used for this purpose. Some may be thinking, "Okay, I can see it at a university, for research purposes." But actually the backup system has been up and running for some time now; most of the backups are being done on it already.

The standard equipment for data backups is a tape drive, also known as a streamer (see our previous review of tape drives ). It comes in all flavors, from individual devices right up to system solutions, where several streamers are installed in one large cabinet and are supplied with the right tapes by a robotic system. If you were ever to use hard drives for backups, you would generally go with SCSI drives, which are designed for long-term use and generally come with a five-year manufacturer's warranty.

The biggest consideration in a backup solution is its reliability. And reliability is not what mainstream drives with IDE interfaces are designed for. What's worse, though, is the fact that the major manufacturers shortened their warranty periods last fall to just one year. In light of all this, why would anyone use IDE?