Spin-off addresses NAS backup

By Heidi Biggar

If your storage environment includes network-attached storage (NAS), chances are good that you have backup problems. While there are a variety of ways to back up NAS appliances, these methods have generally been difficult to manage, expensive to implement or, in some cases, just plain inefficient.

Click here to enlarge image

DinoStor, a spin-off of Global Automation, a developer of custom networked applications for storage vendors, claims its TapeServer appliance can solve NAS backup problems.

TapeServer is a 1U-high backup appliance that sits in the network between NAS filers and tape libraries, taking commands from backup applications and pooling tape resources for backup. Data designated for backup travels from the NAS filers to tape resources via the appliance, which can reportedly push data at speeds of more than one terabyte per hour (see figure).

This approach compares to other NDMP methods in which tape libraries become pseudo network-attached devices and data is backed up in a filer-to-filer manner, or where libraries are NDMP-enabled and directly connected to Gigabit Ethernet for backup (e.g., Quantum's Centaurus and Spectra Logic's TAOS). Another alternative is to back up NAS devices over Fibre Channel to a back-end SAN.

The problem with these methods is that, depending on which one you implement, they can require big upfront investments in new tape technologies or SAN infrastructures, lock you into a particular vendor's technology, or even degrade NAS performance and uptime, according to Srini Sankaran, CEO and founder of DinoStor.

In contrast, he argues, TapeServer allows users to leverage existing tape and NAS resources and pool them to lower backup costs, increase backup speeds, boost overall NAS performance, and simplify backup management.

The one caveat is that the NAS filers and the backup application must both "talk" NDMP to the TapeServer device. So, if you're looking to back up NAS servers based on Microsoft's Windows SAK, you're-at least temporarily-out of luck. DinoStor officials say that adding iSCSI support, which is expected in December, will resolve this issue.

"Users will be able to enable the NAS appliance to speak iSCSI, and it will think it's writing directly to tape," says Steve Kenniston, an analyst with The Enterprise Storage Group consulting firm, in Milford, MA.

TapeServer is currently shipping with one Gigabit Ethernet and one 10/100 Ethernet connection, and two Ultra160 SCSI connections. Theoretically, TapeServer supports an unlimited number of NAS devices and up to 15 tape libraries per SCSI connection. The company claims a backup speed in excess of 110MBps through the server.

TapeServer is priced at $9,995. DinoStor plans to partner with tape library, backup software, and NAS vendors.

This article was originally published on September 01, 2002