Dynamic Solutions Lowers Cost For Entry-level VTL
September 20, 2017 Dan Burger
If you’ve been waiting for virtual tape libraries to become more affordable, your waiting days may be over. Virtual tape libraries — automated backup systems designed to replace manual tape backups — have found a niche mostly in highly regulated industries and businesses with backup complexities that make simple tape backups time consuming and risky. Dynamic Solutions International, a data storage software company with experience in IBM i data management, believes it has reduced the entry costs to a level where small to midsize shops can affordably apply backup automation with its DSI425 Series, a package designed to be much closer to the cost of physical tape.
“We’re offering an entry-level product that makes it easier to get started in virtualization,” Leo Salvaggio, president of DSI, told IT Jungle during a phone interview Monday. “Based on feedback from our clients, we decided to create a VTL solution designed with a more cost-effective hardware platform, which provides a 30 percent cost savings for companies with smaller storage environments that want to get started with a small but high performing VTL solution with the flexibility to grow.”
Street price is roughly $13,500 with one year support and maintenance included.
The smaller hardware platform — a 1U form factor compared to a 2U — is entirely responsible for the cost savings of the new entry-level system. Processing power in the smaller box is provided by a single core Intel Xeon ES-2623 compared to a multi-core Intel Xeon ES-2620 in the larger unit. The entry-level system includes 32 GB of memory compared to 96 GB in what was previously the entry-level system.
The new addition to the DSI425 Series can grow from 5 TB to 20 TB of usable capacity (also known as logical capacity) by adding storage licenses available in 5 TB increments. Dynamic Solutions’ CTO Chris Bremer calls it “a good fit for companies that are cutting one or two tapes a week.”
The most likely candidates for DSI’s VTL hardware-software package are IBM i shops running multiple LPARs. Three LPARs is the most common configuration the DSI team finds when discussing entry-level VTL deployments in IBM i shops. The three LPARs may be on one machine or the system may have two LPARs on one machine and one LPAR on another box.
“We find it’s a management issue of having one tape drive and it’s being switched among LPARs,” Bremer says. “We have software that manages tapes across LPARs. As the complexity of the backup increases, that’s when VTL value increases. The current buzz terminology in this field is called 3-2-1 backup. That’s three copies, two local but on different devices, and one remote copy. We can manage that.”
It’s not uncommon to find shops manually managing physical tape drives and LPARs and resorting to writing details on a yellow tablet as a way of managing backups prior to learning the benefits of automation, Bremer says.
Important elements of the DSI management plan are separately licensed products called Tracker and Conductor.
Tracker is an entry-level media management system (MMS) designed to work with VTL and physical tape environments. The software’s core functionality is to track where backups go, whether the backups are saved to physical tape cartridges or virtual tape drives stored in a VTL.
Conductor was designed to duplicate the sort of tape shuffling activities that would normally be performed by human operators or robotics in large physical library and autoloader environments.
Although the new DSI425 entry-level system is less expandable than the previous entry-level offering, Bremer says features and functionality are the same compared to the more expensive members of the DSI425 family.
Standard features are the capability to de-dup; replication vis IP to a secondary location; stacking virtual volumes into a single volume; back-end tape creation; moving virtual volumes to physical volumes while simultaneously encrypting; and disk space encryption.
DSI claims performance can fire off tapes from multiple LPARs. Depending on the complexity of the system, incorporating eight to 12 tape drives is the maximum.
“Performance issues usually relate to how fast the host can see us, not how fast we can ingest data,” Bremer says.
“Data security is at the forefront of every storage conversation,” Bremer says. “To address growing security concerns and requirements, we built the DSI425 Series with encryption-at-rest as a standard feature. Encryption for information in transit is also built into the system. Customers can turn that on or off.”
DSI is strong in highly regulated industries. Banking, for instance, is a good market for DSI.
The more complex environments using more LPARs make the VTL value more obvious. Managed service providers (MSPs) and companies that operate in highly regulated industries are quicker to recognize the workload advantages of automation.
“The customer base we see still wants to retain ownership of the data,” Bremer observes. “They’re not ready to move backups completely out of their datacenters. If they are moving toward MSPs it’s generally for DR purposes. They buy compute storage for secondary systems and our software automates that backup process.”