NetApp joins the VTL fray

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WITH NETWORK APPLIANCE'S (NetApp) announcement of its NearStore virtual tape library (VTL) last month, all of the major storage vendors now have a VTL offering.

Like other VTLs, NearStore VTL integrates seamlessly with the major backup applications, and can store data from any server or storage platform. But it adds a few notable features to differentiate itself from the competition.

For example, "tape smart sizing" addresses the problem of how to compress tape data without impacting the VTL's performance. Rather than actually compress the data, the VTL samples the data, estimates its compression ratio and adjusts the data set so it will fill the physical tape cartridge when it's spooled off to tape. The compression is performed by the physical drive. "The process of estimating is a much less compute-intensive process than actually compressing it," says Jay Kidd, NetApp's senior VP and general manager of the emerging products group.

NearStore VTL also includes a self-tuning performance capability whereby data is directed to the least-busy disk pools, a replication option and integration with its Decru DataFort 3.0 encryption appliance. At first glace, NearStore VTL also seems not to suffer from the media catalog consistency problem that has plagued VTL products that may write to tape without the knowledge of the backup application. NearStore VTL solves that by initiating writes to tape when the backup application issues an "eject" command, and maintaining a consistent bar-coding scheme with the application.

The single controller NearStore VTL600 comes with 4.5TB of raw capacity and performance of 1.8TB/hr; the dual-controller VTL1200 doubles those numbers. Pricing for the VTL600 starts at $114,000.

On another note, NetApp has also completed the integration of SnapVault with Symantec's Veritas NetBackup. Now, SnapVault can be used to restore the backup archive, even if the data didn't initially originate on a NetApp filer. The aim of the integration, Kidd says, is to further the goal of end-user restore--"a big initiative that backup operators want to get to."

--Alex Barrett

This was first published in March 2006

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