Quantum gives backup a boost

By Heidi Biggar

Quantum last month added its name to the growing list of vendors that offer disk-based systems specifically for backup. Quantum, which dominates the midrange tape drive market, says it will ship its first disk-based system—the DX30—in the second half of the year.

The decision to bring disk into the backup mix has been several years in the making, says Kevin Daly, chief technology officer of Quantum's storage solutions group. "We recognize that a lot of people have invested a lot of time and money in tape backup hardware, software, and operational processes, but are looking to expand these capabilities."

The idea is to let tape do what it does best (i.e., archival) and to use disk to complement, not replace, tape to boost the backup process, says Michael Brown, Quantum chairman and CEO. The company is positioning the technology in midrange markets.

Quantum is the second tape vendor in six months to announce backup plans outside the tape market. Last October, Sony introduced a line of network-attached storage (NAS) products with backup in mind (see "Sony enters NAS market," InfoStor, October 2001, p. 8).

The DX30 addresses three common backup pain points: slow backup and restore, and low end-user confidence in the overall backup process—that is, assurance that backups are done completely and within the allotted backup window.

Quantum claims its 2U-high disk system will be able to boost backup speeds to 140GB per hour, reduce restore latency to less than 10 seconds, and improve overall backup reliability to more than 99%—at a cost of about $0.15 per MB. The ability to instill end-user confidence in the backup process, says Brown, can be attributed to the device's disk speeds and redundancy features (e.g., RAID protection and dual fans and power supplies).

Analysts estimate that between 40% and 60% of all backups aren't recoverable when needed. With the average hourly cost of downtime running anywhere between $50,000 and $2 million, the outcome of an incomplete backup can be devastating to an organization (see "Beyond backup: Ensuring data protection," InfoStor, February 2002, p. 17).

While there are a variety of other disk-based backup systems already on the market, Quantum claims its ground-up approach to disk-based backup, which is based on its new Adaptive Disk Array Management (ADAM) technology, is a competitive advantage.

The benefits of ADAM are threefold: density (3TB on 30 128TB ATA drives in a 2U form factor); the ability to transfer data in large data blocks (versus files); and the ability to emulate a tape library (the Quantum/ATL P1000), which preserves end users' existing infrastructure and operational investments and ensures compatibility with standard backup applications.

"Other vendors have disk-based devices that are marketed into the backup space, but this one looks like a tape library," says Steve Duplessie, senior analyst with the Enterprise Storage Group, an industry consulting firm in Milford, MA. "Think of it as a tape library on steroids."

The device supports 1Gbps Fibre Channel (for data transport) and Gigabit Ethernet (for management and auxiliary features).

Other players in the disk-based backup arena include Alacritus, Nexsan, and Rave, as well as RAID manufacturers. Like Quantum, Alacritus takes a tape-emulation approach to disk-based backup.

In November, Alacritus teamed up with Hitachi CP to bring its Securitus I software to market. Hitachi offers Securitus I-powered disk arrays, or Virtual Tape Library Appliances (VTLAs). The arrays are currently equipped with SCSI drives, can scale to 25TB, and are priced from $40,000.

This article was originally published on April 01, 2002