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

Is there cross-platform play in slither....
So you've sunken plenty of hours into crawling around in slither.io on your iPhone or iPad. You've got your stories of tragedy and triumph, the times you coiled four snakes at one time balanced out by the others when you had a length of more than... | Read more »
Rodeo Stampede guide to running a better...
In Rodeo Stampede, honing your skills so you can jump from animal to animal and outrun the herd as long as possible is only half the fun. Once you've tamed a few animals, you can bring them home with you. [Read more] | Read more »
VoxSyn (Music)
VoxSyn 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Music Price: $6.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: VoxSyn turns your voice into the most flexible vocal sound generator ever. Instantly following even subtle modulations of pitch and... | Read more »
Catch Battleplans on Google Play from Ju...
Real-time strategy title Battleplans is due for release on Google Play on June 30th, following its release for iOS systems last month. With its simple interface and pretty graphics, the crowd-pleaser brings a formerly overlooked genre out for the... | Read more »
iDoyle: The interactive Adventures of Sh...
iDoyle: The interactive Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - A Scandal in Bohemia 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Books Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Special Release Price $1.99 (Normally $3.99) | Read more »
Five popular free apps to help you slim...
Thanks to retail and advertising, we're used to thinking one season ahead. Here we are just a week into the summer and we're conditioned to start thinking about the fall. [Read more] | Read more »
How to ride longer and tame more animals...
It's hard to accurately describe Rodeo Stampede to people who haven't seen it yet. It's like if someone took Crossy Roadand Disco Zoo and put them in a blender, yet with a unique game mechanic that's still simple and fun for anyone. [Read more] | Read more »
Teeny Titans - A Teen Titans Go! Figure...
Teeny Titans - A Teen Titans Go! Figure Battling Game 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Teeny Titans, GO! Join Robin for a figure battling RPG of epic proportions! TEENY... | Read more »
NinjAwesome: Tips and tricks to be a mor...
Sorry about that headline, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that GameResort would not have named its game NinjAwesome without expecting some of that. It is, in fact, pretty awesome the way it combines an endless runner and old school arcade... | Read more »
Into Mirror (Games)
Into Mirror 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: "Is all that we see or seem, but a dream within a dream?"- Edgar Allan Poe New game by Lemon Jam Studio, the team behind Pursuit... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to...
B&H Photo has 13″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY tax only: - 13″ 2.7GHz/128GB Retina MacBook Pro: $1179 $120 off MSRP - 13″ 2.7GHz/... Read more
Apple refurbished Mac minis available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... 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
Apple refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are available: - 21″ 3.... Read more
15-inch Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $200-...
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: $1799.99 $200 off MSRP - 15″ 2.5GHz... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $649 $50 off MSRP - 2.8GHz Mac mini... Read more
Clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook Airs available...
B&H Photo has clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available for $300 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 Mac minis available for up...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac minis available starting at $419. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $419 $80 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac... Read more
ABBYY TextGrabber: 1,000,000 Installs in 5 Da...
ABBYY, an international OCR technologies provider, has announced that their image-to-text application TextGrabber, got installed 1,000,000 times in just five days while being featured by the App... Read more
New SkinIt Waterproof Case For iPhone 6
With its impact and waterproof design, the Skinit Waterproof case provides security and protection to guarantee your phone will get you through even the most demanding outdoor conditions. The impact-... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions, Towson...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
Music Marketing Lead, iTunes & *Apple*...
…Music Marketing Lead is responsible for developing robust marketing campaigns and programs for Apple Music and iTunes across the whole of Apple ecosystem. This Read more
*Apple* Valley Medical Clinic is Hiring - AP...
Apple Valley Medical Clinic is Hiring! Apple Valley Medical Clinic is an independently owned practice operating a Family Medicine Clinic, a 24/7 Urgent Care, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.