NetApp ships virtual tape libraries for backup servers

Network Appliance has moved into the virtual tape library market with the release of its first VTL models. The single-head NearStore VTL600 and the dual-head VTL1200, which emulate physical tape libraries, are the first NetApp products aimed at multi-vendor environments. They can connect from backup software from Tivoli, ComVault, CA Legato and others and to tape libraries from EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun and Hitachi.

Virtual tape libraries use hard drives connected to backup servers to give better service to physical tape libraries. Many backup servers can’t keep up with the spooling demands of tape, causing a stopping and starting effect of the tapes.

Thanks to their architecture and software, the new NetApp VTL solutions are less prone to that, according to Kris Padmanabhan, general manager of NetApp’s heterogeneous data protection unit.

“They give the backup server a much more high-performance target, so you get your backups done in the available time, and the second thing it does … is use your physical tape library more efficiently than before,” he said.

“This is a big point for customers,” added Jeff Goldstein, NetApp’s Canadian general manager. “Many have figured out how to do it (backup to tape), but it’s fragile. They’re doing it with (staff) who are not the most highly paid people in the organization.”

Padmanabhan also said, that unlike some other vendors, NetApp’s VTL’s don’t need a server for their software. Instead, the software is integrated into their controller heads and disk subsystems. The systems scale from 4.5TB to 168 TB using 500GB SATA drives. Pricing starts at US$114,000.

Stephanie Balaouras, a storage analyst with Forrester Research, said the new products are a “solid solution” that brings NetApp into heterogeneous data centre environments.

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