LaserVault Aims for Simplicity with New IBM i Backup Appliance
November 16, 2010 Alex Woodie
LaserVault last week unveiled an all-in-one backup appliance that gives IBM i shops the versatility of a virtual tape library (VTL), but without the complexity and overhead. The new Universal Backup Device, or UBD, appears to the IBM i server as a Fibre Channel-connected tape drive, but in reality, it’s a Windows-based appliance that holds up to 6 TB of IBM i data on RAID-protected disk.
Through its various parent companies and subsidiaries (including Electronic Storage Corp.), LaserVault has been in the IBM i storage business since 1990. The Tulsa, Oklahoma, company still butters its bread with the core LaserVault product, which helps customers to capture, index, store, and retrieve documents from IBM i servers and other systems.
More recently, the company has gone “down stack” and gotten into the IBM i data backup and recovery business with LaserVault Backup. That product, first introduced in 2006, runs on customer-supplied Windows hardware, and offers a full host of commands and functionality for performing backups and restores of IBM i environments. Some LaserVault Backup customers have even integrated their disk-to-disk (D2D) backup solutions with data de-duplication offerings from vendors such as Data Domain and EMC.
While LaserVault Backup offers a plethora of configurability, the new UBD unveiled last week represents LaserVault’s attempt to boil things down to their D2D basics. Instead of loading software and configuring connections, all UBD users have to do is plug in the power cord, connect the Fibre Channel, wait for the IBM i server to recognize the device as a tape drive, and start running backups.
It’s all about simplicity, says Brad Jensen, president of LaserVault. “The main driver for this product is that it offers disk-to-disk backup for OS/400 users with no CL or procedural changes, and without the expense or complexity of a VTL,” Jensen says via e-mail.
“We created the original version of a UBD-like product using SCSI instead of FC in 1994, but the Windows disk capacities were not large enough to release a useful product,” he continues. “While adding limited FC support to our LaserVault Backup product, it suddenly occurred to us to create a simpler, but useful product for backups. Users told us VTL was too expensive, and most of all, too complicated. The result is UBD.”
UBD offers some of the same capabilities as LaserVault Backup. They both back up IBM i servers, and can be used to restore and IPL a box. But the UBD does not offer the cataloging or reporting features of LaserVault Backup, and can only process one backup at a time, just like a single tape drive. UBD is driven with IBM i backup commands, or separate products, such as IBM‘s BRMS or Help/Systems‘ Robot/SAVE, the company says. (Other third-party backup products should work as well.)
In many respects, UBD is a glorified LTO drive. The only major difference between UBD and a tape drive, Jensen says, is “the operator doesn’t have to get out of his or her chair to load and unload tapes.”
In fact, UBD is more useful in some ways than a tape. Since the data is stored on a Windows file system, it is a simple matter to move the data via FTP, thumb drives, external hard drives, or write it to DVD. If the customer wants to add a little more complexity–and slow the IBM i backups a tad–they can set up UBD as a gateway to a de-duplication device via Common Internet File System (CIFS).
The UBD appliance launched last week comes with 6 TB of hot-swappable, RAID-5 protected Western Digital disk, a single FC connection that supports 2 Gigabit or 4 Gigabit speeds, and redundant power supplies. In terms of software, the appliance runs Windows 2008 Server R2 and, and features LaserVault’s LTO tape emulator software and a Web browser-based administrative interface for managing tape image files. LaserVault also includes CL commands that allow users to manage tape image files from the IBM i operating system.
LaserVault has plans to bolster the capabilities of UBD in future releases. New compression and AES-256 encryption routines will be added early next year, Jensen says. Support for 1 Gigabit FC connections is also on the list, as is more storage, support more multiple backup streams, and support for backups from Windows and Linux servers.
The starting price for the UBD is $14,995. Installation is extra. For more information, see www.laservault.com .