Vendors Dive Into Data Protection

Data security is on the agenda at SNW as users look to avoid costly data breaches



SAN DIEGO -- Storage Networking World -- Vendors cranked up their data security and integrity stories here today, unveiling locked-down tape drives and an initiative to tackle corrupted data.

Dell, for example, took the wraps off its LTO-4 tape drive, pushing device level encryption as a way for CIOs to avoid hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons. (See The Year in Insecurity, Iron Mountain Keeps Truckin', and Houston, We've Got a Storage Problem.)

A year after the industry announced plans to encrypt LTO-4 technology, the 800 Gbyte PowerVault LTO-4-120 drive offers double the capacity of Dell's existing LTO-3 products. (See LTO Ultrium to Be Encrypted, LTO Tape Libraries Lead, LTO Hits 1.5M Drives, and LTO Maintains Momentum.)

At least one analyst thinks that this type of encryption is fast becoming a prerequisite for enterprises. "There's more and more interest in tape encryption -- anything that makes it easier has to be a positive," said Doug Chandler, program director for storage software and services at IDC.

Despite the brouhaha surrounding storage security, one user attending SNW warned that he has reservations about device level encryption. "It's highly dependent on the environment that you have got," said Dave Lease, chief architect of Minneapolis-based radiology specialist Virtual Radiologic, which uses a mix of Dell LTO-3 and StorageTek tape. "If we were to do device level encryption I would have to have the same encryption algorithm across my entire environment, and that limits my operational flexibility," he said.

At the moment, Virtual Radiologic can share the tapes between both vendors' drives, something that would not be possible if Lease were to run device level encryption. According to Lease, this type of encryption is best applied to homogeneous tape environments: "If you have the same vendor and the same [tape drive] models throughout your enterprise, encryption can be a no-brainer."

Dell's LTO-4-120 tape drive is available now, priced at $4,000. Media pricing starts at around $200.

Also today, Oracle, Emulex, LSI, and Seagate revealed a partnership to ensure the integrity of data being sent out from database applications to disk drives.

Their goal is to ensure that problems (like bugs) can be identified without causing system downtime. "We can prevent corrupted data from being sent to the disk -- the key here is that we are checking at every stage of the way," said Scott McIntyre, vice president of software marketing at Emulex.

The Oracle database, as it writes data out to disk, creates metadata which can be checked against specific blocks of its data. This is then sent over to an Emulex HBA, where the metadata is checked and validated, before being passed on to an LSI disk array, where the process is repeated. From there, the data is passed to a Seagate disk.

The vendors are using an ANSI standard called T10 Data Integrity Field (DIF) to develop this strategy, although they admit that it will be some time before their first data integrity products are launched. "We're probably looking at 2008 for product availability," said McIntyre.

The first version of the technology will be Linux-based, according to Jim Williams, a consulting member of Oracle's technical staff, although there is no definite schedule for extending this to Windows and Linux.

One analyst told Byte and Switch that data integrity is a big issue for users. "This is something that has been a problem associated with mission critical applications for years," said Brian Garrett, lab technical director at the Enterprise Strategy Group. Previous efforts, such as Oracle's Hardware Assisted Resilient Data (HARD), he said, have typically been proprietary.

According to the analyst, other vendors are now likely to join this effort. "It makes sense for operating system and application vendors to do it," said Garrett. Vendors of midrange storage systems, which typically lack the error-checking features of enterprise arrays, could also get involved, he added.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)
  • Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX)
  • Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)
  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)
  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)
  • IDC
  • LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI)
  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
  • Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL)
  • Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX)

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