SD '04: Users look to VTLs for better backup

A panel of users, discussing backup software at Storage Decisions, gave smaller vendors and virtual tape libraries high marks.

CHICAGO -- At a panel Monday at Storage Decisions, a group of users discussed which vendors and technologies are solving nagging backup problems. The consensus -- backup windows are still not being met and it's time to get yourself a virtual tape library (VTL).

All five of the users on the panel were using some combination of disk and tape, but there seemed to be a consensus for switching to VTLs that involves pointing a backup server to disk that is configured to emulate tape.

Dennis Moore, director of enterprise architecture at Retail Venture Services Inc., a diversified retailer that operates Value City Department Stores and Filene's Basement, has just starting using a FalconStor VTL with backup software from BakBone Software, a vendor most known for its compatibility with Linux. "The BakBone software is easier to use than NetBackup or ArcServe at 40% the cost," Moore said.

Because of the speed of disk, Moore said using a VTL allows him to shorten his backup window. Another area of improvement is data restoration. "Before using a VTL, we would send tapes off site every night…but now I can store and access that same data on the VTL for at least two weeks," he added.

Panel host Peter Gerr, senior research analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), said that the days of simple backups to tape are over and that users are smart enough now not to try to solve problems with more resources. "I see VTLs really taking off because they are so easy to integrate and you don't have to change your backup software," he said. Gerr mentioned Quantum Corp., Advanced Digital Information Corp. (ADIC) and startup Sepaton Inc. as emerging VTL vendors.

Robert Stevenson, technology strategist at Nielson Media backs up 250 TB a month. His backup is run by NetBackup and he uses StorageTek PowderHorn tape libraries. Recently, Stevenson has been looking at VTLs from startups Copan Systems and Maxxan Systems Inc. "VTLs are great at addressing the challenges of recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO)," Stevenson said.

Both Stevenson and Manny Punzo, senior associate of SAN operations at Discover Financial Services, expressed frustration with Veritas NetBackup. Punzo used Legato for five years and then switched to NetBackup. But Veritas "just wasn't meeting backup windows" and he is now switching back to NetWorker from EMC/Legato. "Although at one point we were not happy with Legato, they have done a 180 in the past couple of years," Punzo said.

Another user who eschewed the big-name vendors is Michael Salins, senior system engineer at The Interpublic Group of Companies Inc., a marketing services company that serves advertising agencies. He's been using CommVault's backup software in three data centers in New York, Chicago and London. CommVault, which Salins calls "the biggest of the little guys," has "by far the best reporting tools in the industry," Salins said.

Moderator Gerr concluded from the panel that right now there are "a lot of young backup companies with good technologies peaking at the right time." Although this was only a small panel, Gerr did see the eagerness for smaller vendors as a warning sign to Veritas. "They've acquired four companies this year -- so sometimes you wonder where its resources are going," he said.

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