A couple of issues ago we looked at Benchmark’s DLT-7 autoloader DLT tape system, a cost-effective autoloading system for network-wide backups. The cost of the autoloader, while competitive, is still more than most people want to pay for a tape backup solution. Benchmark has met that requirements with the DLT-1, a single DLT backup unit with an excellent (for DLT) price.

The DLT-1 is a squarish box with a standard DLT (Digital Linear Tape) unit built into the front. The front panel has the loading slot, an eject button, and some status lights. The back panel has two SCSI-2 connectors, a SCSI ID selector, and a power switch. We tested the external unit, although internal models are also available. Both Wide and UltraWide SCSI are supported, as is Differential SCSI. Connecting the DLT-1 is trivial (set a SCSI ID and connect the cable), and our backup software automatically recognized the drive as a DLT. Drivers are available for most operating systems, including several flavours of Linux. We tested under SuSE 7.1, RedHat 6.2, and Windows 2000 with no problems.

The DLT-1 uses the newer DLT Tape IV format, and is backwards compatible with the DLT 4000 standard. The new IV format allows 40GB native, and 80GB compressed capacity on a single DLT cartridge. Inserting and ejecting cartridges is simple, with a slight delay while the tape is prepared with each operation. The drive operation is mostly quiet, although there is a slight bit of tape winding noise in rewind mode. The fan on the DLT-1 is very quiet and doesn’t add to system noise.

We tested the DLT-1 in several sessions, mostly by backing up a native drive with 250GB of video data loaded. We also used it to back up network devices over a 100Mbps Fast Ethernet network. Benchmark claims a transfer rate of 3MB/sec native (6MB/sec compressed) for the unit, which is not blazingly fast for state-of-the-art tape backup units. Some tape systems can manage twice that transfer rate. On the other hand, they also cost a lot more! We measured average transfer rates of about 2.1MB/sec on our native backup (4.2MB/sec compressed), and a little slower on network backups, but these are still respectable numbers. The drive worked flawlessly in two months of testing, performing automated backups every night. Sure, we had to manually change the cartridge every night (the autoloading DLT-7 required only weekly changes but at four times the price), but this is normal practice anyway.

The major selling point for the DLT-1 is the price, as Benchmark positions the DLT-1 with a street price around $1,500. That’s very low for a DLT tape subsystem, as most cost at least double that amount. It is also very competitive with other systems such as Ecrix ECX and Sony AIT drives, which both offer either lower capacities or slower backup speeds. Since DLT is quickly becoming the defacto standard for high-capacity backups, the DLT-1 is attractive because of its price. The DLT-1 can be highly recommended for any system that needs DLT backup capabilities, except those setups that need the fastest possible backup method.

Benchmark Tape Systems
5665 Airport Blvd
CO 80301
303-443-7359 fax

Summary: DLT at a fraction of DLT’s cost. A little slow compared to some DLTs, but a heck of a lot cheaper than the fast units!