Cobalt Iron Supports Multiple LPARs with VTL
July 22, 2020 Alex Woodie
IBM i shops will be able to back up multiple LPARs to an individual virtual tape library (VTL) from Cobalt Iron, the company announced recently. The new capability overcomes a limitation that has existed since the company started to support IBM i with its data protection service a couple of years ago.
Cobalt Iron is a Lawrence, Kansas-based provider of enterprise data protection services. The company’s flagship offering, called Compass, provides backup, recovery, and related services for or all major computer platforms, including servers running on-prem, virtualized environments, and systems and applications running in clouds.
Some of Cobalt Iron’s customers run Compass agents on physical backup devices (i.e. VTLs), while others back up directly to the cloud (in which case the Compass agents are running virtually in the cloud). To get data off IBM i servers, Cobalt Iron emulates an LTO drive over Fibre Channel connections, so it requires customers to run the Compass software on a physical machine next to the server.
The company introduced support for IBM i in late 2018. The company touted its ability to not only provide high-speed backups off IBM i servers, but to automate much of the other work that is often associated with data protection, which it’s able to do through its use of analytics for staying on top of enterprise environment.
“We automate all the tasks — the compute, backup catalog, operations, monitoring. Those are all automated,” says Greg Tevis, Cobalt Iron’s vice president of global strategy. “So we eliminate 90 percent of the ongoing management task of the backup infrastructure.”
There was one limitation in the offering, however. IBM i shops needed a dedicated VTL device for each LPAR that they wanted to back up with Compass, which was then called Automated Data Protection, or ADP.
Depending on the size of the customers’ environments, adding a second or third VTL device (Cobalt Iron uses Linux PCs from Lenovo, but customers are free to install the software on any supported computer) could be cost prohibitive.
Last month, company announced its support for multi-tenancy within the Compass VTL. It supports all platforms, but it will give IBM i shops a particular advantage, Tevis says.
“What we’ve done now is extended that [Compass] capability to multi-tenancy within that VTL, so we can have multi-tenants, or multiple IBM i LPARs or customers,” Tevis tells IT Jungle. “This capability is very interesting. The new Compass VTL multi-tenancy capabilities really allows compass VTL to be leveraged and shared among multiple users.”
The Compass VTLs were already quite scalable. It’s common for customers to store several hundred terabytes in Compass VTLs, and some customers store multiple petabytes on the Flash disks. But now enterprises can leverage that scalability to provide data protection for multiple LPARs, Tevis says.
“We have several MSPs [managed service providers] who are really loving this because it allows them to deliver a multi-tenanted hosted backup solution for their hosted IBM i customers,” Tevis says. “In some cases, they host IBM i on their platform…and in others [we have] partners where their IBM i systems are on prem.”
IBM i shops may still have to install multiple Compass VTLs to provide timely backup performance. For example, the company is currently working with one organization that has more than 40 LPARs that it is looking to back up. That environment may require up to three Compass VTLs, each of which can support up to 12 Fibre Channel ports (it can support more if its FC over Ethernet, the company says).
“In general, we should be able to drive very high percentages of Fibre Channel and Flash disk capacity, so there’s no real bottleneck on that path,” Tevis says. “We do have a backend ingest into the backup, but that’s all post processing, not associated with the backup and restore I/O capabilities.”
Compass is sold as a software as a service (SaaS) data protection solution, with the option for an on-prem environment. For each environment, Cobalt Iron provides an individual agent that handles the backup, recovery, and management tasks that are specific to that environment. For most platforms, these agents can run either on physical machines or run on virtual machines in the cloud, but IBM i customers must run on-prem, using the accelerator.
“The accelerator is a full-blown implementation of a backup engine,” Tevis says. “It’s delivered in SaaS model, but it does have physical characteristic. It also includes Fibre Channel connectivity.”
Like other data protection providers, Cobalt Iron provides multi-site data replication, as well as compression and de-duplication. It doesn’t change any of the existing backup processes or policies that IBM i shops may already have, and as such, it can work with BRMS, HelpSystems RobotSAVE, or Savesys operations.
The company primarily competes against Dell-EMC’s DataDomain devices in the IBM i market, as well as the software-based VTL from Dynamic Solutions International (DSI) that IBM is reselling. (IBM killed off its ProtectTier VTL offerings, which Cobalt Iron sees as a sales opportunity).
Cobalt Iron was founded in 2013 by Richard Spurlock, who saw an opportunity to disrupt the backup and recovery market. The company leans on its use of advanced analytics to give it an edge in automating the backup and recovery process and ensuring that it’s running in a performant manner. The analytics also allow Cobalt Iron to provide insight into other aspects of data management, including security and detecting ransomware.
For more information, see the company’s website at www.cobaltiron.com.