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Choosing a vendor
Choosing the right enterprise VTL depends on a user's existing backup environment, the amount of data to be backed up, the complexity of the storage environment and, most importantly, what problems they're trying to solve.

Dave Russell, research VP at Stamford, CT-based Gartner Inc., ranks EMC, Sepaton (also OEMed by Hewlett-Packard [HP] Corp.) and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s StorageTek Division as the top three "pure-play" VTL vendors. "EMC has the most market share and is a very scalable solution," he says. "Sepaton and HP are extremely scalable, have very high performance and have excellent integration. Sun StorageTek is becoming more of a force in the marketplace, although they are the last" to enter the market, he notes.

In a January 2008 report, Stephanie Balaouras, an analyst at Cambridge, MA-based Forrester Research Inc., wrote that FalconStor "leads for the completeness of its product offering and strategy," while Fujitsu Siemens Computers leads for its "host support, architecture and tape integration." She praised those two and EMC for "the most comprehensive ... interoperability, good scale, solid resiliency features and manageability," due in part to the maturity of their offerings.

FalconStor scored well in areas such as deduplication, tape management, replication and global management, according to Balaouras. She also noted

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its VTL product is built on its IPStor platform, "which enables not only VTL but snapshots, continuous data protection and IP-based replication." ESG's Whitehouse gives Diligent Technologies Corp. (an IBM Corp. company), FalconStor and Sepaton the highest ranks for ease of management.

NetApp Inc., Quantum Corp. and Sun StorageTek "are two to three product updates away from closing the gap" with the leaders in areas such as clustering, deduplication and replication, according to Balaouras.

Balaouras describes Copan Systems Inc. and Sepaton as "massively scalable VTLs" that are focused primarily on customers who want to replace, rather than complement, their tape libraries. Copan recently announced the option of 1TB drives for its Revolution 300 Series Platform, a "hot standby" deduplication option that provides a spare deduplication engine that seamlessly replaces a failed unit, as well as a new 40-drive VTL cache option that allows Copan systems to support more than 1,000 concurrent data streams.

ESG's Whitehouse gives Sepaton's grid architecture the highest marks for scalability, followed by Diligent and FalconStor.

Data Domain Inc. is a leading deduplication vendor. However, "VTL is the minority of our business," says Brian Biles, co-founder and VP of product management. While its software provides "good support for host operating systems, backup apps and network connectivity," says Forrester Research's Balaouras, "it lacks broad emulation of popular tape drives and tape libraries because of its focus on tape elimination rather than tape integration." For Data Domain, she says, "the VTL interface is simply a means by which to introduce a disk appliance less disruptively into the environment." Sun's StorageTek VTL Plus is based on FalconStor technology, but Balaouras says Sun hopes to use its own technology, such as the Solaris Zettabyte File System and its storage products, "to increase scale and reliability through OS-level clustering and software RAID at an affordable price."

This was first published in August 2008

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