TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Aug 01 Review

Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 08
Column Tag: Review

by Ben Baumer

Ecrix VXA Tape Drive

After having suffered through several years and many pounds of DLT III tapes on our old APS DLT III 2000 XT backup tape drive, we recently made the switch to Ecrix's new VXA tape drive, which uses revolutionary tape technology to produce extremely reliable backups on pint-sized tapes. So far, we've been pleased with the performance of the Ecrix drive, but in order to capitalize on the VXA's state-of-the-art technology, you will need some significant hardware that you may not be willing to allocate to a backup server.

There are three main advantages that the Ecrix VXA drive claims over your standard DLT or DAT drive: speed, reliability, and cost. As we all know, FireWire offers data transfer rates at up to 400 Mpbs, which can be twice as fast as your old SCSI interface. Although this sounds like a great savings, the likelihood of your backup server to achieve these speeds in practice is questionable. If you are backing up clients over a network, your maximum data transfer rate is already limited by the speed of the network (most likely 10 or 100 Mpbs), making the speed advantage of FireWire over SCSI inconsequential. It really doesn't matter how fast your computer can write to the tape if it's slower than the speed at which the computer can get the data from the client. For local backups, however, FireWire makes all the difference, and backup times will drop significantly. All of this assumes, of course, that you have a FireWire capable machine available as a backup server. We use a PowerMac 8500 with a G3 card and a PCI FireWire card. Substituting the Ecrix drive for our old SCSI DLT drive did not result in faster backups over the network. On local backups, however, I was able to achieve a top speed of a whopping 360 MB/min.!

APS DLT 2000XT (SCSI) Local (MB/min.) Remote (MB/min.)
Sustainable Speed 100 50
Maximum Speed 120 55

Figure 1. Backup Speeds for the DLT SCSI Drive
Ecrix VXA (FireWire) Local (MB/min.) Remote (MB/min.)
Sustainable Speed 250 50
Maximum Speed 360 55

Figure 2. Backup Speeds for the VXA FireWire Drive

As the tables above show quite clearly, Retrospect can write up to three times as fast to the VXA FireWire drive as it can to the DLT SCSI drive. However, on network backups, there is no discernible difference in speed between the two drives. Clearly, the network is the bottleneck in this example, and the superior performance of the VXA drive is lost. We have about 35 client machines in our backup cycle, and all but one (the backup server itself) are accessed over a network. For us, the gains of the VXA drive pale in comparison to gains we could make by upgrading our network speed. Since the whole idea of a backup server implies reliance upon a network, most people interested in the VXA drive will probably have a similar experience. While the drive itself functions brilliantly, it will probably not significantly improve the speed of your backup cycle if you are primarily backing up over a network.

As for reliability, I did not take the opportunity to dip my VXA tapes in a pot of coffee or hose them down. Personally, I have never had a problem with backup tapes deteriorating, but even the threat is disheartening. The VXA drive uses a new technology involving packets that Ecrix claims will greatly decrease the likelihood of losing data on a backup tape. Just as network traffic moves in packet form, the VXA drive writes only packets to the tape. Combine this with an interpolation algorithm, and VXA suddenly become remarkably reliable, since large chunks of the tape must be missing in order to make the tape unreadable. For a nifty demonstration of this technology, see http://www.ecrix.com/vxa/.

The diminutive physical size of the VXA tapes (roughly the size of audio cassette tapes) is a big plus if storage space is even a small concern, as backup sets tend to build up fast. Although the tapes are relatively expensive ($79.95 for the 33/66 GB V17 tapes), their price per gigabyte (~$1.21) is slightly less than that of the DLT tapes that we were buying ($38 for 15/30 GB tapes, ~$1.27/GB). However, with hardware compression on, I was only able to squeeze a maximum of 52 GB onto one of the VXA tapes, and an average closer to 45 GB. Comparatively, the DLT tapes averaged about 25 GB per tape, with a high of 28.5 GB. This makes both the effective average price per GB ($1.78, $1.52) and the effective maximum storage price per GB ($1.54, $1.33) swing in favor of the DLT tapes! While the price of DLT 15/30 tapes has been rising and will likely continue to do so, it is noteworthy that they come in under the VXA tapes in effective price per gigabyte. Also, Ecrix does offer two other tape types that all work with the VXA drive — the V10 (20/40 GB for $44.95) and the V6 (12/24 GB for $29.95).

While the Ecrix VXA FireWire tape drive is clearly a superior product, it is not necessarily the solution to your backup woes. If you rely heavily on network backups, the VXA drive will likely not make much of any improvement in backup time over your existing tape drive. However, if you concentrate your backups on local disks, then the speed of the FireWire VXA drive will slice your backup times in half or even in thirds. On the basis of price, there is no significant advantage to the VXA tapes over the DLT tapes (although that may change as outside vendors begin cloning and selling these VXA tapes). As for reliability, I cannot confirm or deny the ambitious claims of Ecrix, but after having used the drive for a few months, I have no reason to doubt these claims. I have no doubt that this drive will provide a fantastic solution in the right environment.

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Grab it now: Game Craft’s Legend of War...
The real time strategy game is now available for you to sink your teeth into, through the App Store and Google Play. Combining elements of skill, strategy and empire building, Legend of War is a real gamers’ game. [Read more] | Read more »
Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka (Gam...
Skateboard Party 3 ft. Greg Lutzka 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Skateboard Party is back! This third edition of the popular sports franchise features professional skater... | Read more »
Cubious (Games)
Cubious 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Cubious – How smart are you? How high is your IQube? Solve the impossible puzzles to find out, and help a lost little cube find his... | Read more »
Goat Simulator Waste of Space (Games)
Goat Simulator Waste of Space 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: ** IMPORTANT - SUPPORTED DEVICESiPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5 or better.** | Read more »
Wildfulness - Unwind in nature and calm...
Wildfulness - Unwind in nature and calm your mind with nature sounds and illustrations 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Healthcare & Fitness Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Spending time in nature helps you to... | Read more »
Dr. Panda Racers (Education)
Dr. Panda Racers 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: STEP ON THE GAS, RACE AND WIN!Fasten your seat belts and get ready to race! Speed your way to the finish line while doing... | Read more »
ROMANCING SAGA 2 (Games)
ROMANCING SAGA 2 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $17.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Romancing SaGa 2, originally released only in Japan in 1993, has been completely remastered and now receives its first... | Read more »
WRIO Keyboard (Utilities)
WRIO Keyboard 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Utilities Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: 40% OFF DURING LIMITED INTRODUCTORY OFFER | Read more »
Hatoful Boyfriend (Games)
Hatoful Boyfriend 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The hit PC game that everybirdie loves has now migrated to your mobile device! Now you are free to explore the wonders of St... | Read more »
Warp Shift (Games)
Warp Shift 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: [ CHECK YOUR HARDWARE: Warp Shift does NOT run on iPhone 4, iPad 1 and iPod touch 4G or older devices! It requires at least iOS8... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Goal Zero and OtterBox Partner to Expand iPh...
Goal Zero, specialists in portable power, have announced a partnership with OtterBox, brand smartphone case protection, to offer the Slide and Slide Plus Batteries as modules compatible with the new... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $210 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro: $1799 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz Retina... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $250 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799... Read more
Apple refurbished Apple TVs available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 32GB and 64GB Apple TVs available for up to $30 off the cost of new models. Apple’s standard one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 3.1GHz iMac 4K: $1379.99 $120 off MSRP - 21″ 2.8GHz iMac: $1189 $110 off MSRP - 21″ 1... Read more
Kanex Introduces GoPower USB-C Rechargeable B...
Kanex has announced its GoPower USB-C portable battery for the USB-C MacBook, featuring the new industry standard connector and cable used for connectivity and power. Providing users with a new... Read more
Convertible and Detachable Devices Winning Ov...
According to the latest figures published by International Data Corporation (IDC), Western European shipments of ultraslim convertibles and detachables posted positive growth (44.7%) to account for... Read more
New MacBook Pros And Will MacBook Air Be Upgr...
With my mid-2013 13-inch MacBook Air closing on its third anniversary come November, I’m in system upgrade mode. Actually the Haswell CPU equipped Air is still doing a fine job, but my good wife is... Read more
Apple’s Education discount saves up to $300 o...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad using Apple’s Education Store and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free, and... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

Editor, *Apple* News - APPLE (United States...
Job Summary The Apple News team is looking for a passionate and knowledgeable editor with experience covering entertainment/pop culture and experience running social Read more
*Apple* Nissan Service Technicians - Apple A...
Apple Automotive is one of the fastest growing dealer...and it shows. Consider making the switch to the Apple Automotive Group today! At Apple Automotive , Read more
ISCS *Apple* ID Site Support Engineer - APP...
…position, we are looking for an individual who has experience supporting customers with Apple ID issues and enjoys this area of support. This person should be Read more
Automotive Sales Consultant - Apple Ford Linc...
…you. The best candidates are smart, technologically savvy and are customer focused. Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley is different, because: $30,000 annual salary Read more
*Apple* Support Technician II - Worldventure...
…global, fast growing member based travel company, is currently sourcing for an Apple Support Technician II to be based in our Plano headquarters. WorldVentures is Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.