StorageTek boosts power of Virtual Storage Manager

StorageTek on Monday announced it has boosted the performance, capacity and connectivity of its Virtual Storage Manager (VSM) product.

Aimed at the large-sized enterprise market, VSM 4 is a disk drive that thinks it’s a tape drive. The VSM 4 tricks the computer into thinking that it is 256 disk drives, while the previous version of the product, the VSM 3, dupes the computer into believing it is 64 tape drives.

Steve Aaker, product marketing manager for VSM at StorageTek in Louisville, Colo. said instead of automatically writing data onto a tape, the VSM 4 saves the data in a buffer for an amount of time, such as 12 hours or 24 hours that is pre-determined by the network administrator.

He explained that the more recent the data, the more often it is accessed, and not only is it slower to access data stored on a tape, frequent accessing can wear tapes down. With that in mind, the buffer size of VSM 4 has almost tripled from that of VSM 3 from 3.78TB to 14.0TB.

“Think of it as a bathtub,” Aaker explained. “Well now we’ve got a bigger [one] and what the means is that data can reside in the buffer longer, and what that means from a customer perspective is improved performance because when you want [to view] data that is in the buffer, you get it back at electronic speeds.”

The VSM also employs algorithms that examines the last-use characteristics of the data, the configuration of the data sets and then migrates them out to real tape drives for storage.

VSM also automates the storage process and has the ability to use all of the memory on one tape. Aaker said that tapes today have capacities of 20GB, 100GB, 200GB up from 400MB, 800MB five to ten years ago and that it is often difficult for users to maximize tape space.

Another improvement to VSM 4 is the doubling of channel interfaces to the mainframe from 16 in the VSM 3 to 32.

“This means that there are more ports going into the VSM system which allows customers to do more work and have more configuration flexibility when hooking it up to the operating system on the mainframe,” Aaker explained.

Also, performance has been increased from about 120MB/sec. to about 240MB/sec., depending on compression, ratio between reads and writes and sizes of data blocks.

“The VSM 4 is a much more robust platform,” Aaker said. “It has new microprocessors, Fibre Channel drives within it, and we’ve optimized the code to take care of these things, and what that equates to is that we’ve doubled the performance over its predecessor.”

The VSM is compatible only with IBM Corp. mainframes, and some Siemens AG, Unisys and Bull SA mainframes. It is also proprietary and can only be used with other StorageTek tape storage libraries and products and its price ranges from US$500,000 to US$2 million depending on user requirements.

It is fully compatible with all other versions of VSM and Aaker said the products can work in tandem and be managed simultaneously from a central point of control.

StorageTek’s biggest competitor in this market is IBM Corp., which offers the Virtual Tape Server (VTS).

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