VTL: Key Tool for Shifting Tape Backups to Disk

Tape-based data protection is less useful and sometimes problematic, as IT environments are becoming increasingly virutalized. Virtual Tape Libraries (VTL), which have multiple benefits, are being introduced as a solution to the "pain" of tape back-ups.

Mike DiMeglio is product marketing manager at FalconStor Software, which provides data protection and storage solutions that facilitate the continuous availability of business-critical data.


"Backup" and "pain" are two terms that are almost synonymous in the minds of corporations relying on tape-based data protection. In a world moving quickly towards the virtual, tape is becoming an incongruity. In addition to its inability to deliver on-the-spot data recovery, tape demands a backup process that taxes the CPU and network resources already allocated in a virtualized environment, making a lengthy process even slower.

And the fallibility of tape has been well documented; most recent studies have found that only 60-80 percent of all backups to tape complete successfully. However, the reasons for moving away from tape stem from other problems, as well. Among the factors influencing the mass migration from tape are:

  • Year-over-year storage growth continues unabated.
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery (DR) are becoming requirements, not nice-to-haves.
  • New legal pressures are forcing IT and legal departments to work closer together.
  • Server virtualization is driving the need to virtualize more of the IT infrastructure.

That last point has become particularly compelling for many enterprises. IT managers need a solution that not only meets backup and recovery needs, but also can function across multiple operating systems, protect virtual and physical servers, operate within the existing infrastructure and remain compatible with future technologies.

The expectations for backup solutions in the virtual environment are many. Among the most pressing are:

  • Alleviate current backup pain immediately and meet heightened recovery goals, even if there are fewer resources available.
  • Offer more adaptability, flexibility and scalability than tape-based solutions.
  • Support test and development environments that require multiple copies of production data.

Disk, of course, is faster and more reliable than tape, but there are several approaches to disk from which to choose. A virtual tape library (VTL) poses the best option for many companies looking to shift their virtual environments to disk-based backup.

VTL is a data storage virtualization technology that presents hard disk drives (HDDs) as physical tape libraries. To the backup software, the VTL appears to possess all of the characteristics of a physical tape library including tape drives and tape cartridges. This enables the backup software to manage the VTL as it would a physical tape library since it views a VTL in the same way.

The benefits of the VTL approach include:

  • Centralized IT infrastructure - Using a central VTL enables IT departments to store their backup data to one repository and get the benefits that a VTL offers while still maintaining autonomy.
  • Easy implementation - Since a VTL looks just like a physical tape library to the backup software, there is minimal or no need to change anything in the infrastructure from an operational perspective.
  • Support for multiple backup software products - A VTL is akin to a physical tape library in that it works with multiple backup software products.
  • Improved asset utilization - A VTL eliminates the requirement to share physical tape between different backup software products.
  • Performance benefits - Since a VTL uses HDDs, it does not require a steady stream in the flow of backup data, so interruptions have little or no effect in performance.
  • Reductions in performance tuning - A VTL eliminates the need to constantly monitor and tweak performance since it is less affected by spikes in throughput and unaffected by drop offs in backup performance.

There are numerous elements enterprises might adopt as they mature their virtualization efforts and improve their approaches to data protection. VTL is an effective bridge at the outset of that journey toward disk-based data protection systems. It relieves much of the pain caused by traditional tape-based backup while maximizing existing and future data investments.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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