Technology That Stands The Test Of Time

By: Christine Harrell

When looking for tape drives, it can be tempting to dismiss older technologies. Although tape drives have improved over the decades, older models are still in high demand. These aren't legacy systems. They are effective data storage technologies that can provide reliability and low cost storage solutions for your business. The IBM family, which includes the 3480, the 3490, the 3490E, and the 3490-F11, are a solid product line with many strong features.

The IBM 3480 tape drives were released in 1984 for use on mainframe computers. The 3480 replaced the traditional 10.5 inch round reel which stored 160 megabytes at 1.25 megabyte per second with a 5.5 inch cartridge which was easier to store and held 200 megabytes. Reading and writing across 18 tracks simultaneously, the 3480 had a data transfer speed of 3 megabytes per second. Early models used a bus and tag interface and were used with mainframe computers, but later 3480 tape drives used a SCSI interface so they could connect with personal computers.

IBM introduced the 3490 tape drives in 1989 which offered hardware-based data compression called Improved Data Recording Capability (IDRC). This gave the 3490 tape drive more storage capacity than the 3480, allowing 400 megabytes per cartridge. The 3490 had the same transfer speed of 3 megabytes per second.

The 3490 tape drives developed into the 3490E tape drives in 1991. The 3490E tape drives could read and write 36 tracks simultaneously. The cartridges of the 3490E tape drive used longer tapes in the same sized cartridge. The 3490E tape drives increased capacity to 800 megabytes per cartridge. With hardware data compression, the 3490E tape drive could store up to 2.4 gigabytes per cartridge. IBM kept backward compatibility in the 3490E tape drives, allowing it to read older 18-track tapes as well.

The 3490-F11 was another development in the 3490 tape drive family. The 3490-F11 included a 10-cartridge auto loader. Using the same hardware data compression as the 3490E tape drives, each 3490-F11 cartridge holds 2.4 gigabytes which allows a total capacity of 24 GB for each 3490-F11 drive. If that capacity isn't large enough, the 3490-F11 is rack mountable. Used with the 3490E model FC0 rack, four 3490-F11 tape drives can be mounted simultaneously giving unattended backup capacity nearing 100 GB.

Despite their age, the 3480 tape drive and 3490 tape drive families are still robust and effective backup solutions. You might not consider using a fifteen year old video card or hard drive, but a choice like the 3490-F11 can still be a strong addition to your data center.

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