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

Skype 7.9.746 - Voice-over-internet phon...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Apple GarageBand 10.1 - Complete recordi...
The new GarageBand is a whole music creation studio right inside your Mac -- complete with keyboard, synths, orchestral and percussion instruments, presets for guitar and voice, an entirely... Read more
Duplicate Annihilator 5.7.7 - Find and d...
Duplicate Annihilator takes on the time-consuming task of comparing the images in your iPhoto library using effective algorithms to make sure that no duplicate escapes. Duplicate Annihilator... Read more
OS X Server 4.1.3 - For OS X 10.10 Yosem...
Designed for OS X and iOS devices, OS X Server makes it easy to share files, schedule meetings, synchronize contacts, develop software, host your own website, publish wikis, configure Mac, iPhone,... Read more
Firefox 39.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals and casual... Read more
pwSafe 4.1 - Secure password management...
pwSafe provides simple and secure password management across devices and computers. pwSafe uses iCloud to keep your password databases backed-up and synced between Macs and iOS devices. It is... Read more
Kodi 15.0.rc1 - Powerful media center to...
Kodi (was XBMC) is an award-winning free and open-source (GPL) software media player and entertainment hub that can be installed on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android, featuring a 10-foot user... Read more
Coda 2.5.11 - One-window Web development...
Coda is a powerful Web editor that puts everything in one place. An editor. Terminal. CSS. Files. With Coda 2, we went beyond expectations. With loads of new, much-requested features, a few surprises... Read more
Bookends 12.5.7 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Maya 2016 - Professional 3D modeling and...
Maya is an award-winning software and powerful, integrated 3D modeling, animation, visual effects, and rendering solution. Because Maya is based on an open architecture, all your work can be scripted... Read more

This Week at 148Apps: June 29-July 3, 20...
Into July With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the... | Read more »
Sonic Runners Guide
Despite its flaws, Sonic Runners' platforming action is actually quite fun. Though it can be a little more complicated than old-school Sonic games. Here's how to make sure you're up to speed when jumping in. [Read more] | Read more »
Rage of Bahamut is Giving Almost All of...
The App Store isn't what it used to be back in 2012, so it's not unexpected to see some games changing their structures with the times. Now we can add Rage of Bahamut to that list with the recent announcement that the game is severely cutting back... | Read more »
Adventures of Pip (Games)
Adventures of Pip 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** ONE WEEK ONLY — 66% OFF! *** “Adventures of Pip is a delightful little platformer full of charm, challenge and impeccable... | Read more »
Divide By Sheep - Tips, Tricks, and Stre...
Who would have thought splitting up sheep could be so involved? Anyone who’s played Divide by Sheep, that’s who! While we’re not about to give you complete solutions to everything (because that’s just cheating), we will happily give you some... | Read more »
NaturalMotion and Zynga Have Started Tea...
An official sequel to 2012's CSR Racing is officially on the way, with Zynga and NaturalMotion releasing a short teaser trailer to get everyone excited. Well, as excited as one can get from a trailer with no gameplay footage, anyway. [Read more] | Read more »
Grab a Friend and Pick up Overkill 3, Be...
Overkill 3 is a pretty enjoyable third-person shooter that was sort of begging for some online multiplayer. Fortunately the begging can stop, because its newest update has added an online co-op mode. [Read more] | Read more »
Scanner Pro's Newest Update Adds Au...
Scanner Pro is one of the most popular document scanning apps on iOS, thanks in no small part to its near-constant updates, I'm sure. Now we're up to update number six, and it adds some pretty handy new features. [Read more] | Read more »
Heroki (Games)
Heroki 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: CLEAR THE SKIES FOR A NEW HERO!The peaceful sky village of Levantia is in danger! The dastardly Dr. N. Forchin and his accomplice,... | Read more »
Wars of the Roses (Games)
Wars of the Roses 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch 1.6GHz MacBook Air on sale for $849,...
Amazon has the 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99 including free shipping. Their price is $150 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
RamDisk4Mac App Helps Run Your Mac Faster And...
Ever use a RAM disk? If you’ve come to the Mac in the OS X era, likely not. The Classic Mac OS had a RAM disk function built-in, but that was dropped in the conversion to OS X. What is a RAM disk?... Read more
13-inch 1.6GHz MacBook Air on sale for $849,...
Best Buy has the 2015 13″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for $849.99 on their online store this weekend. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders... Read more
Apple Refurbished iMacs available for up to $...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished iMacs available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac – $1949 $... Read more
Apple refurbished 2014 13-inch Retina MacBook...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $400 off original MSRP, starting at $979. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Seagate Backup Plus Drives Feature 200GB of C...
Seagate Technology plc has announced that its Backup Plus family of external storage offerings will now include 200GB of OneDrive cloud storage, a major added value, and the addition of Lyve’s photo... Read more
Canon PIXMA MG3620 Wireless Inkjet All-in-One...
Canon U.S.A., Inc. has announced the PIXMA MG3620 Wireless (1) Inkjet All-in-One (AIO) printer for high-quality photo and document printing. Built with convenience in mind for the everyday home user... Read more
July 4th Holiday Weekend 13-inch MacBook Pro...
Save up to $150 on the purchase of a new 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pro at the following resellers this weekend. Shipping is free with each model: 2.7GHz/128GB MSRP $1299 2.7GHz/... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149, sav...
Best Buy has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2149.99. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale price for online orders only, in-store prices may vary. Their price is $... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2015 11-inch...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2015 11″ MacBook Airs as well as 13″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
Senior Payments Security Manager - *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior payments security manager to join the Apple Pay security team. You will Read more
Sr. Technical Services Consultant, *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple Professional Services (APS) has an opening for a senior technical position that contributes to Apple 's efforts for strategic and transactional Read more
Sr. Payment Program Manager, *Apple* Pay -...
**Job Summary** Apple Pay is an exciting environment and a…devices in a simple, private and secure way. The Apple Pay Team is looking for an experienced Senior Read more
Project Manager - *Apple* Pay Security - Ap...
**Job Summary** The Apple Pay Security team is seeking a highly organized, results-driven Project Manager to drive the development of Apple Pay Security. If you are Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.