By Kevin Komiega
Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has quietly made a name for itself in the virtual tape library (VTL) market by selling custom VTL systems with data de-duplication capabilities to enterprise customers. Now the company is taking the technology to the mainstream with three new pre-configured VTL appliances.
The VTLs combine the streaming data de-duplication capabilities of Diligent Technologies’ ProtecTIER technology with back-end storage courtesy of Hitachi’s Adaptable Modular Storage (AMS) disk arrays. With the three new models–the Virtual Tape Library Appliance Model 500M, 1000L, and 1000E–HDS is trying to simplify the buying and selling process for users and partners.
The 500M includes up to 20TB of capacity by way of Hitachi’s AMS 500 disk array. Once de-duplication is applied, that 20TB of storage translates into as much as 500TB of backup data assuming a de-duplication ratio of 25:1. The 500M has an estimated throughput of more than 200MBps and emulates up to four tape libraries, 16 drives, and 8,192 tape cartridges.
The AMS 500 is Hitachi’s midrange disk array capable of supporting a mix of 225 Fibre Channel or SATA drives for both high-performance applications and nearline or backup applications.
The Model 1000L VTL offers higher performance and capacity than the midrange 500M, with throughput in the 300MBps range, 30TB of capacity (up to 750TB with de-duplication), and emulation of up to 16 libraries, 256 drives, and 8,192 cartridges.
The 1000E VTL is the biggest and fastest of the three, offering performance of up to 400MBps and providing management for more than 1PB of data. The 1000E supports up to 50TB of capacity and, like the 1000L, emulates up to 16 libraries, 256 drives, and 8,192 cartridges.
The AMS 1000 disk array serves as the underlying storage platform for both the 1000L and 1000E. The AMS 1000 supports up to 450 disk drives and the ability to virtually connect to a maximum of 1,024 servers.
HDS has not released full pricing details for the VTL appliances, but it has offered an example of an entry configuration. A base model of the 500M with 8TB of capacity costs about $220,000. HDS product marketing manager Victor Nemechek says customers will pay a “small incremental cost” for additional capacity as they expand the appliances.
The appliances are available worldwide through Hitachi’s network of more than 1,500 VARs, channel partners, integrators, and direct sales force.
Diligent’s ProtecTIER is software that runs on standard Linux servers and connects to Fibre Channel-attached disk arrays. ProtecTIER operates at 450MBps per node and increases backup disk capacity by 25 times or more using inline data de-duplication. But the Hitachi-Diligent VTL system is more than just Diligent’s de-duplication technology bolted onto HDS storage. The two companies have worked together to optimize Diligent’s code to squeeze the highest possible performance out of the system.
Inline vs. post processing
Dave Russell, research VP with the Gartner IT consulting firm, says the de-duplication debate has moved from speeds and feeds to a higher-level conversation about having the right tool for the job.
“The argument over the best way to do data de-duplication–inline or post-processing–is not completely off the table but in most cases it should be,” says Russell. “Users ask about performance expectations, but they need to take a step back and determine whether the solution is going to meet their business needs. At the end of the day, inline versus post-processing doesn’t matter.”
Russell says Hitachi’s pre-configured systems have put the company on the right track in the VTL market. “Having a pre-configured solution lowers the cost of entry,” he says. “The real trick for success will be Hitachi’s business partners and channel program. There might still be cases where Hitachi sells direct, but it’s really going to be its partners that make the difference.”
Laura DuBois, IDC’s research director for storage software, says Hitachi’s move down-market with pre-configured VTLs and Diligent’s de-duplication technology will mean more competition in the VTL market, putting HDS in a dogfight with the likes of Data Domain, EMC, IBM, Network Appliance, Quantum, Sepaton, Sun, and others.
“Hitachi chose a good partner in Diligent, given their common focus on high-capacity enterprise environments,” says DuBois. “Going down-market with the appliance packaging will increase their competition.”
Hitachi’s Nemechek adds that HDS will not limit its VTL portfolio to the new pre-configured appliances. The company plans to continue selling custom VTL configurations.