The new SATA drives are also spurring interest in virtual tape and disk-based backup. Although tape continues to be cheaper, falling disk prices have brought the industry to the tipping point, making disk a viable backup option.
VTLs, which work with the existing tape backup software but use low-cost disk rather than tape for storage, are growing in popularity as vendors rush products to market. EMC Corp., HP, IBM Corp. and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek, now owned by Sun) now offer VTLs, and most backup storage software vendors support virtual tape configurations. "We're seeing the VTL segment getting quite crowded, and we're expecting the number of implementations to increase in 2006," says Data Mobility Group's McAdam.
The slow speed of tape drove Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, N.C., to add VTL to its backup process. "It was taking us two hours to do the nightly backup using tape," recalls Bob Massengill, manager of technical services. While backing up the system each night, the 24/7 medical center was forced to revert to a cumbersome manual procedure for inevitable late-night admissions. "We either had to buy more tape drives or go to virtual tape," he says.
The medical center opted for virtual tape from StorageTek. Virtual tape turned out to be less costly than buying more tape silos, and delivered benefits that proved its real value. "It reduced our backup time to just seven minutes," Massengill reports. In addition, it eliminated the need for two operators to continually mount and handle tapes, freeing them for other tasks. The medical center still backs up to tape for offsite archiving, but can do so without disrupting online operations.
Storage expects more companies to opt for disk-based backup for its speed and reliability. We don't expect VTL to replace tape, however. Instead, as Massengill found, tape will continue to be used for offsite archiving.
EMC, HDS, HP and IBM have long offered midrange storage arrays. So why do we think midrange arrays will become hot stuff in 2006? Simply put: The cost keeps getting lower, and the products keep getting better.
"In the past when you bought a midrange array, all you got was disk. Now vendors are adding many of the same advanced features they offer on their high-end storage," says McAdam. The midrange will rival the top end in features, although not in scalability, and at a much lower price. Many products will sport FC disk, and some will come with a mixture of SAS and SATA and offer sophisticated replication, mirroring and management.
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago turned to midrange storage when it moved from distributed DAS to a centralized SAN to streamline storage administration and provide for future scalability. It initially chose HP's EVA3000 midrange array, and later upgraded to the EVA5000 with 35TB of storage. "We could have used more, but we bought as much as we could afford,'' says Ron Hunsberger, director of information technology.
Advanced features, as much as price, led the school to the midrange. "We have a small staff. We wanted the technology to supplement the staff," Hunsberger says. The staff particularly likes the EVA's storage management. "We use it to add, subtract, group and ungroup the drives. It's easy to see how things are running," says Craig Hamill, Rosalind Franklin's system manager.
Hot -- but practical
The hot technologies for 2006 promise to solve the problems companies have wrestled with for years. Virtual tape and disk-based backup using low-cost SATA disks will help enterprises to achieve consistently reliable backup and recovery, and accomplish it within acceptable backup windows. The various remote replication and acceleration technologies will go a long way in decreasing the difficulty of supporting remote workers and protecting remote office data without having to dispatch IT troops to the hinterlands. And the new e-mail archiving technologies are sure to give storage administrators the tools to find e-mail-specific threads in a hurry. Storage expects these technologies to be firmly entrenched within companies next year.