IBM unveils virtual tape library

IBM Monday unveiled its first virtual tape library for open systems and plans to release the next version of its TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller virtualization engine, which pools storage resources from heterogeneous arrays behind an appliance.

IBM’s Virtualization Engine TS7510 is the first of what is expected to be a series of virtual tape libraries. It combines hardware and software to provide tape virtualization for Unix- and Intel-based servers that connect to Fibre Channel storage systems. Virtualization Engine is a rack-mounted server that scales to 46TB of capacity and runs the Linux operating system.

The product uses a standard server and special software that emulates a tape library to application servers. Real tape drives can then be attached to the TS7510 to perform backups off-line.

Virtual tape libraries reduce backup windows by performing disk-to-disk backups before offloading data to tape media, which is considerably slower. They also improve restore speeds because copies of the data can be kept on the backup disk for a specified period of time.

Tony Prigmore, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc. in Milford, Mass., said IBM — while behind EMC Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. in getting a virtual tape library to market — has an enormous server and storage installed base to draw on for sales.

“The advantage IBM has is an excellent reputation in the Linux marketplace,” he said. “On top of that, they have a good reputation with traditional tape products and products in the midrange disk arena.”

The TS7510 has a starting retail price of US$175,000 and will be available Oct. 28.

Both HP and EMC have announced virtual tape libraries over the past year. HP’s StorageWorks 6000 Virtual Library System is based on the HP StorageWorks Modular Smart Array and can emulate 16 separate libraries and 64 virtual drives or 64 server connections. The midrange box has a capacity that ranges from 2.5TB to 10TB. EMC’s Clariion DL300 Disk Library is based on the CX300 disk array and scales to 10TB. It can emulate up to 32 tape libraries and has a starting retail price of $79,000.

IBM also said this week that it plans to roll out TotalStorage SAN Volume Controller Version 3.1. IBM said the release will support up to four times more servers than the current version and can manage larger storage networks. The upgrade will also allow users to choose between native copy functions in their disk arrays or the SAN Volume Controller’s copy functions.

SAN Volume Controller Version 3.1 is expected to be available sometime next month, an IBM spokeswoman said.

Prigmore said IBM had little choice but to offer native copy capabilities, because its customers have been requesting it. “Now they can pass through the storage array data-protection and migration features [from other vendors] … so customers can continue to leverage those native features but still get the advantages of pooling and utilization increases that come from virtualization,” Prigmore said.

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