Virtual tape is an archival storage technology that makes it possible to save data as if it were being stored on tape although it may actually be stored on hard disk or on another storage medium. Benefits of virtual tape systems include better backup and recovery times and lower operating costs.
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A special storage device manages less-frequently needed data so that it appears to be stored entirely on tape cartridges when some parts of it may actually be located in faster, hard disk storage. Virtual tape can be used with a hierarchical storage management (HSM) system in which data is moved as it falls through various usage thresholds to slower but less costly forms of storage media. Virtual tape may also be used as part of a storage area network (SAN) where less-frequently used or archived data can be managed by a single virtual tape server for a number of networked computers.
A virtual tape system offloads from the main computer the processing involved in deciding whether data should be available in the faster disk cache or written onto a tape cartridge. The virtual tape system also can manage data so that more of the space on a tape cartridge is actually used.
IBM and Storage Technology are well-established vendors of virtual tape systems. Sutmyn Storage sells a product that provides a virtual interface to existing IBM and other systems.
The programming for a virtual tape system is sometimes called a virtual tape server (VTS).