I ordered my Dell SC440 with an internal DAT tape drive. lsscsi reports it as a Seagate DAT72-052. I'm pretty sure that the Ubuntu 6.06 installation picked it up automatically -- I flailed around a bit to get this working but I don't think at the end of the day that I did anything on the host to get the tape drive working.

I'm creating a VM to run my backup. For large installations you won't want to do this, but for me I see no reason not to. And a big part of the reason I'm doing this is to see what's possible, so onward.

To enable the tape on a VM, you have to shut down the VM. Then, in the VMWare Console select VM > Settings > Hardware > Generic SCSI, and specify the physical device to connect to. In my case it was /dev/sg0. You also have to specify the controller and target for the tape drive.

I had no idea what the controller and target were, so on the VMWare host, I did:
sudo apt-get install lsscsi
lsscsi -c
and got:
Attached devices:
Host: scsi1 Channel: 00 Target: 06 Lun: 00
Vendor: SEAGATE Model: DAT DAT72-052 Rev: A16E
Type: Sequential-Access ANSI SCSI revision: 03
Host: scsi2 Channel: 00 Target: 00 Lun: 00
Vendor: ATA Model: WDC WD1600YS-18S Rev: 20.0
Type: Direct-Access ANSI SCSI revision: 05
I took the channel as the controller: 0, and the target: 6. I entered all that into the VMWare Console and clicked enough okays to get out of the configuration. (I couldn't find the link in VMWare's on-line documentation for configuring generic SCSI devices, but if you type "SCSI" in the "Index" tab of the VMWare Console's help window you can find slightly more detailed instructions.)

When I started the VM, I got a message that said, among other things: "Insufficient permissions to access the file." Since it looked like everything else was right, I did ls -l /dev/sg0 on the VMWare host (not the VM) and got:
crw-rw---- 1 root tape 21, 0 2008-03-23 17:23 /dev/sg0
Since VMWare was running as user vmware, I added the vmware user to the tape group:
sudo adduser vmware tape
Then I restarted the VM and it worked fine. It pays to read the error message closely.