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Tape Drive alternative

Posted on 2001-06-07
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Need an alternative to the current tape drive. Using Exabyte EXB-8900 drive with firmware revision 39. This is in a proprietary piece of hardware that dumps geological survey data directly to the tape drive. These older drives are needing to be replaced too often. There is no Operating System of any sort involved. Is there some way that we can hook onto the end of the 50 pin SCSI cable and receive the data to some other kind of device where we end up with it in a usable form. Data Collected runs up to 20GB a day at times. Currently the Exabyte tapes are then restored to a Windows machine for processing. The data compresses to about 60% of uncompressed form. Apparently there is a problem also with some of the replacement tape drives having newer versions of firmware and not working.
This should be a real challenge.
TIA for your help
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Question by:emery_k
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by:jhance
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If there is no operating system involved then the software in the hardware device (or perhaps the hardware itself) is specific to this make/model/version of the tape drive and will need to be updated.

While most SCSI tape devices are SIMILAR in their command set and operations, they are not IDENTICAL and even differ among versions of firmware in the same model.  It's pretty simple to update models or firmware for a Windows NT hosted tape drive because only the device driver itself needs to be updated.  Everything else is the same for any type of tape drive.

I think you've probably reach the end of the line with this setup and will need to do some engineering work.  

Can you contact the people to designed/built the thing and see if the tape drive parameters are configurable in any way?  
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by:DanR
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Or maybe see if you can dump it to a removable hard drive?  Where does the proprietary hardware get the data?
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by:jhance
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By the way, it would be a simple matter (albeit not necessarily inexpensive) to design and build a device that could plug into the SCSI cable in place of your obsolete Exabyte drives and "emulate" the tape drive.  The other end of such a device could be a more modern or available device.  Most likely it will also need to be a tape drive due to the amount of data you are acquiring.  Of course it could be a disk drive if you change the units regularly enough.
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by:emery_k
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Comments appreciated. Iomega makes the `peerless' which is a 20GB removable and it will be in SCSI. Actually building a device that plugs in and translates to `standard' SCSI so the Peerless or even a hard drive could be used might be viable. The other thing that's been discussed is having the 50 pin SCSI cable be input to a PC that could then write to a hard drive and transfer to a tape or even directly to the tape. As long as it is faster. What happens as they are scanning the data in if the tape drive does not keep up they have to start all over again. The current tape drive does rewrites as it gets dirty/worn and that's the problem. Who would we approach to engineer & build a `translator/emulator' or whatever? I know that wouild probably be the preferred approach as they probably don't want just anyone going into the proprietary hardware and fooling with it. That would also be an add-on such that they could keep running as is, get the new hardware and then have options.
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jhance earned 300 total points
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>>having the 50 pin SCSI cable be input to a PC that could

The mechanics of the 50 pin SCSI cable are the least of your worries here.  Sure it's SCSI but the SCSI interface does NOT specify how commands to devices are to be interpreted.  This is why a SCSI disk and a SCSI tape (or even different models of SCSI tape drives) are not interchangable.  While they are all SCSI, they all speak their own "language" and even "dialects" within a "language".

There are many things that might be put on the end of the cable to "capture" the data and it could be anything from a custom hardware device to translate to an entire PC running some software to capture the data to its hard drive.  What is best depends a lot on your constraints.  Things like how much power you have available, the environment where it runs, etc., etc.....

As far as someone to do the work, if you'd like to take such a discussion offline from Experts Exchange, please send me an email at: jwh20@hotmail.com.  I can give you my background and experience and decide if there is anything worth pursuing here.
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