VTL Market Polarizes

A gulf has developed between VTL camps but Quantum forges ahead, courting enterprises with the backup benefits of de-duplication and disk-based storage combined.
Posted April 10, 2008

Drew Robb

Drew Robb

Recent research by Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, MA, indicates that the virtual tape library (VTL) marketplace is inhabited by two distinct camps: Those that embrace tape and want to approach the use of disk and tape holistically in the environment; and those that want to ultimately eliminate tape or at least drastically reduce the reliance on tape.

Forrester's analyst ranked the tape/disk integrators highest while the tape replacement specialists were ranked low.

"I think the tape elimination VTL/D2D appliance players like Data Domain and Diligent will continue to be successful with SMEs that are pursuing a more aggressive tape elimination strategy," said Stephanie Balaouras, storage analyst for Forrester. "I've seen some SMEs that have separate strategies and IT solutions for long-term archiving or simply don't have long-term archiving requirements successfully eliminate tape by reducing their backup retention policies to 30 days or less."

Balaouras wasn't so optimistic about the tape replacement lobby's chances in the enterprise market, however.

"I think these tape replacement vendors will struggle in large and very large enterprises," she said. "These types of businesses will continue to use both disk and tape, and physical tape integration is important."

The tape/disk integrators are even encroaching on the turf of the tape replacement camp by rolling out products that include features such as data de-duplication. Quantum Corp. of San Jose, CA, for instance, is embracing the tape/disk unity concept in a big way. Its DXi line of disk-based systems has built-in de-duplication.

In fact, if you take a look at the Quantum website, all you see is the word de-duplication. Clearly, Quantum is embracing disk and is intent on selling enterprises on the concept of a joint disk and tape strategy. As a result, it is giving heavy emphasis to its DXi-Series disk-based data de-duplication and replication portfolio.

DXi consists of three platforms: the DXi3500 and DXi5500 are appliances that allow simple set-up and configuration in remote locations with limited IT staff or within a distributed enterprise. While testing Quantum's DXi3500 and 5500 appliances, ESG Labs performed setup and directed backups to the DXi appliance in less than 10 minutes. These appliances are available in eight different capacity points protecting up to 12 TBs of primary data. The third platform is the DXi7500 system. This is a scalable and high-availability system that can protect up to 240 TB of primary data.

Any of these boxes can be configured as a VTL using Fibre Channel or iSCSI connectivity. Alternatively, they can be configured as NAS boxes using CIFS or NFS protocols. A customer can choose the best option for their environment or mix presentations and interfaces within the same box. And all include de-dupe.

"Data de-duplication is a very exciting technology that greatly increases the value of disk for backup for a number of reasons," said Mike Sparkes, product manager, enterprise disk systems for Quantum. "Users can retain 10 to 50 times more backup data on disk which allows weeks or months worth of data to be cost-effectively stored on fast recovery disk prior to moving to tape for long-term archive."

This, he adds, saves on disk capacity purchases as well as long-term power, floor space and cooling costs. Further, de-duplication enables the replication of changed data over a WAN. As a result, distributed data centers or remote offices can automate backups, data restore and disaster recovery without the security concerns associated with moving tapes between locations.

"Quantum is the first vendor that can help enterprise customers with a comprehensive strategy for linking backup, restore, disaster recovery, global management, and comprehensive service and support across the distributed enterprise," said Sparkes. "Combining Quantum's DXi-Series disk-based data de-duplication and replication, direct path to tape functionality, intelligent tape automation systems and 'single pane of glass' management via StorageCare Vision software, customers can effectively cover edge to core data protection."

There are, of course, a number of different approaches to data reduction.

Some vendors offer compression or single-instance storage, which reduces the amount of storage at the file level. Others utilize block-level data de-duplication that recognizes differences at a more granular block basis within or between files.

Quantum uses what it calls variable length block technology, which, says Sparkes, allows for the most efficient data reduction technique. It's Quantum that owns the foundational patent in variable block-level data de-duplication.

"Tape and disk integration continues to be an extremely important consideration for customers employing archive and disaster recovery strategies," said Sparkes.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.

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