Tributary Extends NonStop Legacy to IBM i
April 26, 2011 Alex Woodie
Tributary Systems has served the storage and archive needs of Hewlett-Packard NonStop customers for years with its Virtual Integrated Tape and Library (ViTAL) offering. Since acquiring the virtual tape library (VTL) assets from Gresham Enterprise Storage a year-and-a-half ago, Tributary has added IBM Power Systems expertise to its enterprise storage repertoire.
Tributary Systems was founded in 1990 to address the backup storage needs for users of the NonStop fault-tolerant computing platform that was first developed by Tandem, then acquired by Compaq and HP. For the last 15 years, the Bedford, Texas-based company has been an OEM supplier of backup solutions to HP for its NonStop business unit.
Tributary got into the VTL business in the early 2000s, just as VTLs were beginning to gain popularity. The company’s first VTL offering, ViTAL, meshed well with the high availability needs of NonStop customers, says Tributary President and CEO Shawn Sabanayagam.
The company had always been interested in entering the mainframe and AS/400 market, two fault-tolerant platforms that were analogous to NonStop, Sabanayagam says. So around 2005, Tributary partnered with Gresham Enterprise Storage to broaden its platform support. However, the resulting solution was not up to par and it was never formally launched.
In late 2009, Tributary got into the IBM i market for good when it acquired Gresham’s VTL assets, including all products, personnel, and intellectual property associated with the Clareti Storage Director VTL software. Since then, the company has worked to improve the software (now called Tributary Storage Director), and strengthen its partnership with IBM.
For starters, in February, Tributary announced that the Storage Director software supported the z/OS platform. This gives the solution broad coverage across IBM i, AIX, Open VMS, Linux, and Windows environments.
The company also received certification from IBM for running Storage Director on IBM’s X64-based System x platform, and integrating with IBM SANS on the backend. This is a critical thing for “true Blue” shops that want to leverage IBM hardware and support agreements across all of their critical servers, Sabanayagam says.
Giving customers flexibility in their backup and storage environment is the key element that Tributary can offer with its VTL solution, says Ed Ahl, a former Gresham employee who is now director of business development for Tributary.
“Technology is shifting so fast, it’s clouded the VTL landscape for a lot of people, and makes the decision a little more difficult,” he says. “With Storage Director, we’re a non-disruptive technology. You can insert us into an environment, and you don’t have to change a thing. We support BRMS and SAVLIB. It works just like a native IBM solution.”
Storage Director emulates an IBM 3584 LTO tape library on the front-end. Because the backup is writing directly to the disk cache of the underlying Storage Director appliance, backups are typically completed much faster than disk. In some rare cases, where the speed of a backup is not dependent on how fast a tape drive can write data, users will see no speed benefit from using a VTL like Storage Director. But in many cases, Tributary sees backups completed faster than LTO 4 drives can accomplish them.
The real flexibility of the Tributary offering, though, is what the product can do after the data has been backed up. Because Storage Director offers such a wide variety of connections on the backend, customers can continue to use their IBM disk or tape libraries for long-term storage, or even Oracle‘s StorageTek offerings. Storage Director also has a certified connection with Quantum to support that vendor’s storage devices, including its data de-duplication capabilities.
While data de-dupe is gaining a lot of attention in the IT world (Data Domain recently rolled out IBM i support with its industry-leading offerings), the IBM i world is less concerned with de-dupe as with other storage capabilities, notably replication, Ahl says.
In particular, IBM i customers are interested in being able to replicate backups over low-bandwidth lines to a secondary storage location, where the backups will sit on tape libraries until they are needed in the event of a disaster. When a backup is needed, it can be easily applied to the IBM i environment. “Customers aren’t locked into us to have their data. That’s a key feature,” Ahl says.
The use of native storage formats allows customers to apply their backups more easily than if the VTL stored the backup in a proprietary format. However, customers who opt to encrypt their backups using Storage Director will need the software to unlock their backups.
Tributary is gearing up for the launch of Storage Director version 3 in the coming weeks. The new offering will include support for NAS storage, which will further broaden its storage capability in the X64 world. Look for a story on the new version in an upcoming issue of this newsletter.