LaserVault Puts the ‘i’ in VTL
May 2, 2018 Alex Woodie
LaserVault is rolling out a new virtual tape library (VTL) offering that could interest IBM i shops who are looking to get away from physical tape. Dubbed ViTL, the offering emulates an IBM LTO tape library, and thanks to integration with BRMS and HelpSystems‘ Robot Save, can provide the “set it and forget it” level of automation that IBM i shops expect from enterprise storage, the company says.
LaserVault, which is also known as Electronic Storage Corp., is no newbie when it comes to virtualizing tape products. In 2006, the Tulsa, Oklahoma, company debuted LaserVault Backup to provide customers with a cheaper alternative to dedicated VTL hardware. Four years later it launched its Universal Backup Device (UBD), a Windows-based appliance that emulated an IBM LTO tape drive.
The new ViTL (pronounced “vital”) offering traces its roots to UBD. However, it’s different in some ways. The biggest difference is that, while UBD emulated a single IBM 3580 tape drive, ViTL emulates an entire tape library, specifically the IBM TS3200 library. That gives ViTL some important capabilities that UBD can’t match, explains Ax Synar, director of sales for LaserVault.
“With a physical tape library, you have barcodes on the tapes, and you load the tapes into the carousel, and the tape library reads the barcodes on the tapes and passes them into BRMS or Robot Save,” Synar tells IT Jungle.
“So these are virtual tapes that then become usable as media in BRMS or Robot Save,” he continues. “It acts just like if you had put tapes into the tape library with barcodes, but you didn’t have to do that. Instead, all you had to do was just go into Web interface, put in how many tapes that you wanted, based on how many slots.”
ViTL has the capability to manage and track up to 4,000 virtual tapes, which should give customers plenty of headroom. Some of LaserVault’s IBM i clients have dozens of systems or LPARs, which translates into hundreds of backup tapes to manage, so 4,000 should be more than enough.
Because the tapes are virtual, there’s no limit on the size of the backups stored on each virtual tape. So if an IBM i shop has a 5TB backup, it no longer needs to split the backup across two physical LTO cartridges, Synar says. That’s also the case with UBD. The big difference between UBD and ViTL is the lack of a need to manually tapes, Synar says.
“With UBD you had to add them manually, which is not a real big deal,” Synar says. “But when people use the BRMS or Robot Save product and virtual tape library, they want a tape library that does the same thing they were doing before. That’s why we came up with ViTL, because we wanted a solution that would match what a physical tape library does based on how it interfaces automatically, how it automatically loads for saves, and automatically loads for restores of tape.”
The restore process is more streamlined and automated with ViTL. With UBD, users needed to know which virtual tape contained the data they needed. With ViTL, that information is tracked through integration with BRMS or Robot Save, which will automatically locate the data for the customer.
“BRMS or Robot knows which tape that the backup is on,” Synar says. “You don’t have to know what tape it’s on. You just have to get a list of what you want to restore, you choose what you want to restore, and then it automatically loads the virtual tape into the drive for you, and does the restore.”
LaserVault offers several purchasing options with ViTL, which runs on the Windows operating system and requires at least Windows Server 2012. Customers who have their own physical Windows Server or Windows Server-based virtual machine (VM) can get a license for the ViTL software for $15,000.
LaserVault also offers a pre-built appliance that’s equipped with 4TB of solid state drives (SSDs) software, in addition to the ViTL software and a Windows Server license, for $20,000. Systems can be ordered with up to 64TB, Synar says, and customers who need more than that can be accommodated. Customers can also connect ViTL to storage products offered by Quantum, Dell, HPE, and Cohesity, he says.
ViTL appliances connect to IBM Power Systems hosts through Fibre Channel and SAS connections. The ViTL can support up to 16 physical FC or SAS ports. For each physical FC or SAS port, ViTL can present a single VTL, which means the offering can support up to 16 VTLs with a single product.
The software supports backups from Linux and AIX environments, in addition to IBM i. It supports compression, provides 256-bit AES encryption, and supports D-mode IPL, the company says. Two forms of data replication are available, including the capability to replicate a virtual tape to another disk, and via the company’s Replicador offering.
Synar says the market for VTL and disk-to-disk (D2D) backup solutions is strong in the IBM i community. While tape is still fairly pervasive and has a role in archive and disaster recovery, there’s a strong incentive to get off tape for local and hot backups.
“The iSeries guys are kind of behind as far as getting rid of tape,” he says. “There’s a lot of people who are planning their upgrades from current Power Systems, whether they be Power 5, Power 6, or Power 7, to Power 8 or Power 9 and not wanting to buy tape drives or tape libraries.”
What’s more, the new LTO 7 generation of tape libraries and tape drives are “getting a little expensive,” he adds. “People who are looking to get away from tapes with new Power 8 and Power 9 boxes, would be beneficial to start looking at a disk-to-disk solutions, especially a tape library solution if they’re using BRMS or Robot Save.”