VTLs Getting Bigger, Faster

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The virtual tape library (VTL) celebrated its 10th birthday this year and shows no sign of giving up its position as the archival solution of choice for enterprises looking to incorporate faster recovery times and improved hardware consolidation without radically altering their storage architectures.


And really, what's not to love about a disk-based backup system that appears to the network as a tape system and can operate by-and-large with existing storage platforms? To be sure, VTLs have their detractors, mainly those who say data management issues can arise if the VTL is not properly integrated with existing archival systems. But for firms looking to expand their backup capabilities, or establish new ones altogether, the newest VTLs are both low-cost and highly responsive solutions, and the newest systems feature a healthy set of integrated data management tools.


EMC's DL4000, for example, now sports 1 TB disk drives and RAID 6 data protection. The system is also supported by the NetWorker monitoring and analysis tool set designed to seek out and rectify the kinds of backup issues that often plague integrated VTLs. NetWorker also supports the CommVault Galaxy, CA ArcServ, Symantec PureDisk and NetApp NearStore systems.


Sun Microsystems has reworked its Virtual Storage Manager system (formerly StorageTek) aimed at mainframe environments, boosting throughput more than 50 percent to 613 Mbps in an effort to quicken disaster recovery times. The new system is available as a free upgrade to existing VSM customers.


Sepaton has a new high-end VTL as well, the S2100-ES2 Series 750 that scales up to 1.2 PB, uncompressed, and offers a max throughput of 9.6 Gbps. The system features the company's Deltastor deduplication software and a data compression engine that offers backup and restore at 34.5 TB per hour without hampering overall system performance.


VTLs are even coming out in appliance form. Fujitsu Siemens is out with the CentricStor system that offers a duel-target save mode that lets you back up to either the on-board disk system or to tape. The device offers up to 1 PB and more than 1.5 million logical volumes.


It used to be that people scoffed at the idea of even the largest organizations requiring petabytes of storage. But that was before e-mail and Sarbanes-Oxley. The first computer I bought had 640k RAM (remember those?) and the salesman laughed when I asked if I would ever need 1 MB. VTLs that scale into the petabyte range may seem like monsters now, but it's not a bad idea to lay the groundwork now what appears to be increasingly heavy data loads in the future.