"Storage Insider" InfoWorld.com
By Mario Apicella  July 21, 2003

By the time you read this, Quantum will have put into service a new architecture that will bring MAM information into the open, consolidate drive and media statistics in a comprehensive log, and provide IT managers with tools to easily identify the cause of error conditions and timely predict failures, Quantum says.

MAM, or medium auxiliary memory, a permanent storage area provided by a chip embedded in many tape cartridges, can be found in popular tape drive technologies such as Sony's AIT (Advanced Intelligent Tape), Quantum's DLT (Digital Linear Tape), and LTO (Linear Tape Open), the latter jointly developed by Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Seagate.

With a format regulated by the T10 Standard body, MAM stores a wealth of statistical information about cartridges and tape drives, such as the number of read/write errors and the amount of data written or read. Backup applications can store additional information, such as the application name, the last usage date, and the barcode associated with the tape. You get the idea.

If you're wondering why vendors, despite the cost and difficulty, added a memory chip to tape cartridges that already have plenty of room to store data, think "fast response time." Because storing and retrieving information from MAM happens quickly via infrared communication, repositioning the tape is not required, and ongoing backups and restores are not affected.

Sounds good? It should because having a comprehensive usage history of tape drives and cartridges can help an IT manager keep track of media inventory and backup devices. The usage history, for instance, could help ensure that tapes with numerous read or write errors are promptly replaced, or that backup jobs are evenly spread across their media set.

Unfortunately, many IT managers lack the tools to easily access that information, and that translates to blindfolded media and drive management. Moreover, the lack of proper diagnostic tools can cost significant time and money.

In fact, according to Quantum statistics, 50 percent of tape drives returned under maintenance agreement by customers actually work perfectly. This clearly indicates that without accurate data diagnostics even the most skilled technician can confuse a media error with a drive malfunction.

DLTSage will include xTalk, a host-based application for Linux, Unix, and Windows, and iTalk, a mobile application for pocket PCs that will enable instant reading via IR connection of statistical data from single drives. At an unspecified future time, Quantum will add also a browser-based application, predictably named eTalk, to DLTSage.

Support for DLTSage will be included with the upcoming SDLT (Super DLT) 600 tape drives, but the numerous existing customers (according to Quantum, they control nearly two million DLT drives and more than 90 million cartridges), can download these tools free of charge. In addition, major Quantum partners have expressed interest in leveraging DLTSage in their solutions.

With its improved diagnostics, DLTSage should reduce the number of headaches and the cost of these false positives for Quantum and its customers and add more reliability to backup tapes. They are, after all, still the last protection from data loss.

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008