Sony's SAIT-1 Good Choice For Backup

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Businesses are no longer clamoring for tape backup solutions, since there are many more choices on the market nowadays. Tape backups are expensive and have limited capacity compared with newer technologies such as disk-to-disk (D2D) and virtual disk. For tape vendors to retain market share and remain competitive, they must find a way to reduce the cost per gigabyte and increase the storage capacity of their products. Sony has improved its AIT (Advanced Intelligent Tape) technology to do just that.

The company's Super Advanced Intelligent Tape (SAIT) technology has all the AIT advantages on a larger half-inch format, compared with its 8mm predecessor. The larger tape size means more storage capacity per media cartridge.

The SAIT-1 tape drive is priced at $9,500 and can store 500 Gbytes of data in native format and 1.3 Tbytes of compressed data. Sony allows for more storage density on a tape, which translates to more native capacity. In turn, this means a reduced cost per Gbyte. This is the first tape media cartridge reviewed by the CRN Test Center that can handle more than 1 Tbyte of storage on a single media cartridge.

One of the lingering problems with tape-based backup solutions is the difficulty of recovering data from tape backups. Restoring critical applications and data from tape requires a significant amount of time, and pinpointing a single file or snapshot from tape can be troublesome. This problem has become a larger concern recently and is a major reason companies are moving to technologies such as
D2D backup.

To circumvent this problem, Sony's media has flash memory built right into the cartridge, which enables users to read back file index information without having to locate a specific portion of the tape. This feature, called memory in cassette (MIC), lets users quickly access data and/or a specific file. MIC will by no means offer the same level of rapid-search capability D2D offers, but it is a technology that can help make tape backup systems more valuable and appealing to businesses.

The drive offers a very clean-running, reliable design due in part to the advanced metal evaporative (AME) found in the media. Unlike many other tape drives, Sony's SAIT-1 does not produce much dust or containments like magnetic particles, which can degrade the media over time.

The ever-increasing need of companies to back up data brings with it a number of compliance problems. Sony's SAIT drive offers WORM (write once read many) technology for customers swamped with compliance demands. WORM is also a great selling point for solution providers. In addition to helping customers ensure that their data is authentic and is not alterable, WORM is critical for corporations that need to address federal mandates, such as SEC or HIPAA rules. WORM disks can be read only by the drive that created them. Sony's SAIT drive is the only 500-Gbyte drive on the market that is WORM-ready, offering a distinct competitive advantage over other tape drives. Once recorded, SAIT WORM media cannot be written over or reformatted. However, data can be added to the end of previously recorded information. The WORM technology is based on the MIC chip found in the media cartridge design.

Sony's drive uses only proprietary media, but this is not necessarily a disadvantage. SAIT media is priced at about 30 cents to 35 cents per Gbyte, which is a very hard price to beat.

The drive is an external unit and is housed in a steel enclosure comparable in size to a DAT external drive. The SCSI ID and LVD/SE Ultrawide SCSI interface are located on the back of the drive. CRN Test Center engineers installed the drive on a Hewlett-Packard Netserver running Microsoft Windows 2003 Server. An Adaptec 29160 Ultra LVD controller was installed in the server as the primary interface. Basic installation was simple and uneventful. Engineers used Backup Exec 9.1 for Windows Server software to test the SAIT unit. In data comparison and restore tests, the unit performed flawlessly.

Sony has been a player in the data storage market for a long time, and its understanding of customers' needs really shines in the design of this SAIT unit.

In storage sales, the company is almost 100 percent channel-driven and offers a two-tier channel structure to authorized distributors. Sony's program offers extensive pre- and post-sales support, marketing support and dedicated technical support 24x7. Training is provided upon request. Sony did not disclose specific margin information, but the company said it strives to maintain solid double-digit margins for solution providers. Sony also offers margin enhancement incentives, demo unit pricing, volume discounts and a dedicated solution provider resource center. The SAIT drive is protected by a three-year warranty.

Overall, Sony's SAIT drive offers integrators a valuable tape backup alternative for customers.

> Sony SAIT-1 Tape Drive
COMPANY: Sony Electronics
San Jose, Calif.
(800) 866-SONY
DISTRIBUTORS: D&H, Ingram Micro, Synnex, Tech Data

Note: Recommended status is earned with ascore of eight stars out of 10

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