VTLs top users’ priority list

By Kevin Komiega

A recent end-user survey conducted by TheInfoPro research firm (“Wave 6” of TIP’s semi-annual surveys) shows that virtual tape libraries (VTLs) rank as the top storage networking technology in the plans of many large enterprises.

In TheInfoPro’s “Technology Heat Index,” which ranks various storage networking technologies by users’ purchasing plans, VTLs moved from the number-two position in TIP’s April 2005 survey to the number-one spot in the latest survey.

TheInfoPro’s research is based on extensive interviews with storage professionals in Fortune 1000 companies. The Technology Heat Index ranks a variety of networking technologies, such as Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives, iSCSI SANs, wide area file services (WAFS), multi-protocol switches and routers, and fabric-based intelligence.

VTLs lead the way in TIP’s Heat Index, followed by asynchronous remote data mirroring and 4Gbps Fibre Channel.

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VTLs are quickly becoming a priority in many large IT organizations for a variety of reasons, including rapid data growth and poor backup performance associated with traditional tape-based backup systems. “There’s a lot of anxiety out there right now because the growth in storage is overwhelming, and storage administrators are worried about what it will mean when the data flows downstream in their environments,” says Robert Stevenson, TIP’s managing director for storage.

Moving ever-growing amounts of data from production to secondary storage is becoming a more difficult task every day, and it’s a pressure that VTLs can help alleviate.

In fact, according to TIP, the average SAN capacity among its network of storage users is 455TB, up from 279TB in the April 2005 survey. Storage professionals interviewed in the first quarter of 2005 anticipated 40% growth in capacity; however, when TIP recently revisited the question with the same set of users they found growth was actually closer to 60%.

More than 70% of the end users surveyed by TheInfoPro are using or piloting or have a VTL implementation in their plan.

Representative VTL vendors include ADIC, Copan, Diligent, EMC, FalconStor Software, IBM, Neartek, NetApp, MaXXan, Overland Storage, Quantum, Sepaton, Sun/StorageTek, and Ultera.

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Asynchronous remote data mirroring rated second on the Heat Index due to increased emphasis on disaster recovery and a major shift by most companies toward becoming “real-time” enterprises with around-the-clock data availability.

Stevenson says enterprises have begun expanding the scope of their disaster-recovery strategies beyond just mission-critical applications. The percentage of survey respondents using, or planning to use, asynchronous remote mirroring totaled 85%.

Rounding out TIP’s top-three hot networking technologies is 4Gbps Fibre Channel. But end users are not clamoring for the technology. Most are waiting until 4Gbps becomes a de facto standard and ships with new FC storage devices. Stevenson says many users are looking at 4Gbps FC as a cure for some backup problems, with 61% of those surveyed having it in their plans or using the technology today. “We saw a jump in 4Gbps Fibre Channel for backup servers in the recent survey,” he says. “Companies are using it to increase backup performance with more bandwidth and decrease the number of inter-switch links they have to manage.”

Although not in the top-three storage networking technologies, WAFS is moving up in TIP’s surveys, going from number 17 on the Heat Index last April to number eight in the most recent survey.

This article was originally published on January 01, 2006