Network Appliance joins the VTL fray

By Kevin Komiega

—Network Appliance this week kicked off a disk-to-disk backup campaign with the release of two virtual tape libraries (VTLs) and related services. The company also released an enhanced version of its Decru DataFort security appliance for data encryption.

NetApp added two flavors of VTL to its product lineup under the NearStore brand. The VTL600 is a single-head system priced at about $114,000 for an entry-level 4TB configuration, and the VTL1200 is a dual-head appliance priced at approximately $170,000 for a 9TB version. The larger model can scale up to 168TB using ATA disk drives.

Like other VTLs, NetApp's systems emulate physical tape libraries, store backup data on disk, and automatically copy data to physical tape under backup application control to decrease backup windows and recovery times.

The NearStore VTL systems run NetApp's VTL software, which the company acquired when it bought Alacritus Software in May 2005. NetApp says its VTLs interoperate with hardware from all open systems storage vendors—including EMC, Hitachi Data Systems, and IBM—and the software runs with existing backup application software from vendors such as BakBone, CA, CommVault, EMC/Legato, Hewlett-Packard, Symantec, Syncsort, and Tivoli.

Robert Amatruda, research manager for tape and removable storage at International Data Corp., says that virtual tape solves fault-tolerance problems and enables users to meet backup window objectives, but the real key to a VTL system is library support.

"The critical element is the way in which these boxes support the movement of data to physical tape," says Amatruda. "The expectation is that they will support and handle physical tape and integrate into existing tape environments."

Amatruda says Network Appliance has its bases covered with the major players in the tape market by supporting tape libraries from ADIC, IBM, Quantum, StorageTek, and others.

NetApp claims there are two features unique to the NearStore VTL systems, aside from hardware and software support: Self-Tuning Performance for dynamic workload balancing and Tape Smart Sizing, which maintains a 1:1 compression ratio between virtual and physical tapes. Jay Kidd, senior vice president and general manager for Network Appliance's Emerging Products Group, says these features can eliminate disk overload issues and save customers as much as 50% of the cost of physical tape cartridges.

Network Appliance is joining an ever-expanding list of VTL vendors, which includes ADIC, Copan, Diligent, EMC, FalconStor Software, IBM, Neartek, MaXXan, Overland Storage, Quantum, Sepaton, Sun/StorageTek, and Ultera.

On the security front, Network Appliance announced Decru DataFort E-Series Version 3.0 firmware for IP-based storage environments. The DataFort is a security appliance and can integrate with NearStore VTL systems to provide encryption of data on disk and tape systems. The DataFort E-Series supports the CIFS, NFS, and iSCSI protocols.

The new firmware includes enhanced anti-virus support, role-based access controls for administrators, and expanded key management functionality.

NetApp Global Services (NGS) launched three new service offerings in an effort to tie today's announcements together and help customers get their VTL implementations up and running. The first service is a VTL Design and Implementation Service, specifically designed for NearStore VTL. The second service is the Disaster Recovery Design and Implementation Service, and the third offers help with designing backup-and-recovery environments.

This article was originally published on February 07, 2006