NetApp dives into virtual pool

Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp) this week joined companies offering virtual tape library appliances, seeking to differentiate itself with load balancing and tape optimization.

The company announced two disk-based appliances, the NearStore VTL600 and VTL1200, that store as much as 168TB of data. The products are based on technology obtained via NetApp’s buyout last year of Alacritus Software Inc.

Like makers of other virtual tape libraries, NetApp uses disk instead of tape to back up and recover data faster and save on media-acquisition costs and floor space occupied by spacious tape libraries.

Virtual tape is an easy fit for companies that are conservative about best practices, says Jeff Goldstein, general manager for Network Appliance Canada Ltd.

“VTL offers the advantage of backing up to disk without a company having to change its best practices. It feels like a tape backup system, except now instead of the tape media they’re backing up to disk,” he says. The NearStore VTL600 has a single controller, while the VTL1200 has two. As data gets older, the devices can copy it directly to physical tape.

The NearStore VTL works with traditional backup software from BakBone, CA, CommVault, HP, Legato, Symantec, Syncsort and Tivoli. They work with tape libraries from ADIC, IBM, Quantum and Sun. The appliances can back up data on any vendor’s open systems storage device, the company says.

“The VTL is an opportunity for them to break out into heterogeneous environments,” says Stephanie Balaouras, senior analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

An existing NearStore archiving appliance is designed for use with other NetApp gear, she says.

Many storage companies have embraced virtual tape libraries as a way to quickly back up and recover data.

Among them are large storage and systems vendors such as EMC, IBM and HP and a host of smaller and newer companies, including Copan Systems, Diligent, Data Domain, FalconStor, Maxxan, Neartek and Sepaton. Goldstein says Nearstore VTL is NetApp’s way of tapping into large multi-vendor storage environments.

“Among Canadian enterprise companies, we know NetApp is only a portion of those storage environments.

“Our competitors can offer that capability with their VTL products; we’re now coming to market and offering more capability to reach these larger companies,” says Goldstein

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