IBM Seeks Greater Slice of Virtual Tape Library Pie

Big Blue's new VTL offering ups capacity and speed to try and compete with entrenched completion.

IBM (NYSE: IBM) is playing catchup to established rivals in the hot virtual tape library (VTL) market, pushing out a larger, faster tape virtualization solution of its own.

The company today also unveiled new software for automating provisioning tasks for its N series of network-attached storage (NAS) products. IBM plans to ship both by early June.

The company's new Virtualization Engine TS7530 "is about providing the best of everything," Charlie Andrews, IBM's worldwide product marketing director for system storage, told InternetNews.com.

For one thing, the unit's 1TB capacity provides 33 percent more room over the previous product, the TS7520, he said.

Perhaps most notably, however, the IBM Virtualization Engine TS7530 uses hardware compression, versus software compression, to gain greater speed and reduce storage costs. While hardware compression may be new to IBM's VTL product, the technology's been in play with tape-based competitors for the past year.

Backup data has long been stored with hardware compression on tape, but software compression has typically been used on disk. The hardware compression enhancement is more efficient as software compression steals cycles from the VTL controller.

"That savings may be significant," David Hill, an analyst at Mesabi Group, told InternetNews.com. He added that IBM is one of the few large vendors to use hardware compression on disk.

Ease of implementation may also be another plus for IBM's solution.

"At its heart, the TS7530 is a virtual tape library, but it is more than a virtual tape library because of its tight integration with physical tape libraries," Hill said, which makes it simpler to tie into physical tape systems.

"Enterprises need highly available and faster backup and restore solutions, and the TS7530 fits the bill nicely," he added, noting that IBM's experience in both disk and tape gives it an advantage over most competitors, as "it's able to craft a solution that integrates the two very well."

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