Gen2 virtual tape libraries: Hot Spots


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Climate change
There are a number of factors contributing to the changing VTL climate. First, the base technology is more mature. VTL vendors have been able to exercise their products in a variety of environments and collect valuable feedback from customers. Second, today's VTL buyer is better educated not only about VTL technology but their own data protection requirements. This next generation of VTL buyers (that's you) is more careful about vetting vendor claims. For example, what type of scalability is required to achieve advertised throughput estimates? And are deduplication ratios realistic?

Another angle is the advancement of backup solutions. Most, if not all, of the traditional backup vendors have embraced disk-to-disk (D2D) backup and a new crop of backup solutions built specifically for D2D backup has emerged. Today, backup vendors are keenly aware of user needs for addressing backup window problems with better backup performance, improving recovery time objectives with rapid recovery techniques, and reducing the capacity of data transferred and stored with capacity optimization technologies.

Because many of the newer backup solutions address these primary concerns, how have VTL vendors responded? It turns out they're introducing a crop of new features to win over the pragmatic buyer (you again), which is great news for IT organizations.


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VTL requirements
ESG surveyed VTL users about the types of features they would like to see in their current VTL solution. Data deduplication and improvements in VTL management topped the list, followed closely by improved scalability, and better recoverability and performance. Some users, struggling with methods for getting data offsite for DR purposes, prioritized DR features and support for physical tape on the VTL back end. Lastly, support for protocols--such as FICON and ESCON for mainframe support, and Ethernet for iSCSI support--rounded out the list.

These users are concerned with overall functionality. VTL vendors are beginning to factor this into their development roadmaps. For example, implementing replication between VTLs has become a standard feature for most solutions. VTL buyers are interested in how that capability maps to current processes and existing environments. Can the replication occur to more than one location? Is it possible to encrypt the data while in flight? Is scheduling (at off-peak times) or bandwidth throttling available? What techniques are offered to reduce the capacity of data transferred?

Here are some of the Gen2 features VTL users are interested in.

Capacity and performance scalability. The ability to scale storage capacity and performance are high-priority requirements that go hand in hand. Some early VTL solutions had design bottlenecks where the VTL architectures didn't fully take into account how backup applications work or what performance limits they would hit. Often, the existing backup processes or jobs would have to change just to take the pressure off VTL solutions. Gen2 VTLs must have the ability to seamlessly increase throughput performance as backup window pressure and recovery objectives dictate. The same holds true for capacity limits, and how easy it is to deploy additional disk capacity in the environment.

This was first published in September 2008

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