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Storage Automation in Storage

Tape Libraries and Autoloader

A data backup that has the goal to restore the latest possible data, usually begins with integrating a simple tape drive into an existing server (internal or external). Depending on the amount of data that has to be backupped and your backup strategy it can happen pretty quickly that the capacity of the backup tape does not last very long and the tape has to be changed on a daily basis. In this case, Autoloaders make the whole process much simpler.
An Autoloader is a tape drive (streamer) that is loaded with tapes cassetes by a automatic exchange mechanism. The tapes are put into the device. Via a panel on the device housing or via software the tapes can be accessed and put into the streamer.

The Autoloader is usually connected and operated via a Wide-SCSI environment. The Autoloader itself requires several SCSI-IDs internally. Alternatively there are more and more Autoloaders with fibre channel and SAS interface.
The use of an Autoloader is recommended if the amount of data that has to be backupped is too big to be saved on a single medium. But using an Autoloader is also recommended if your backup strategy requires changing the storage medium evey day. The Autoloader ensures that the right media is inserted and loaded before the backup process starts.

Tape Libraries
Within complex network environments that contain various different operating systems, a simple Autoloader is not enough for automating backup routines. Usually all servers in such heterogenous environments are connected via an highspeed backbone. In this case the main backup should be made on a special server that exists only for this purpose. A tape library is connected to this one.
A library is a type of tape storage automation that is made up of a combination of robotics and several drives. It is functionally complemented by a software that can load, unload and exchange streamer tapes automatically. By using several drives a simultanous support for several users and servers/hosts is possible. The library itslef has at least 2 streamers and of course the electronic control system for the robotics. In order to improve the data transfer rates it is recommended to connect every single streamer via its own SCSI unit. Additionally complex amounts of data can be tranfered faster via fibre channel and SAS interfaces. It also makes administration and maintenance of the backup infrastructure a lot easier.
The library itself can be not only used for automatic backups of course, but also as a "big archive". For this different kinds of storage management software can be used. Libraries can often be upgraded with additional streamers to ompimally adapt to a growing amount of memory demands.

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