Data De-Dupe Gives VTL Customers More Options
March 29, 2023 Alex Woodie
When your IBM i backup data is 10x smaller, the backups complete more quickly and the local storage requirements are smaller. But that’s just the beginning of the savings for customers of LaserVault, which added a new data de-duplication feature to its virtual tape library (VTL) last year.
LaserVault has been providing IBM i backup solutions for many decades, and launched its line of VTL solutions in 2006. Customers can get ViTL, as the VTL is called, as a Fibre Channel- or SAS-connected backup appliance (LaserVault partners with Supermicro for hardware) or as shrink-wrapped software that customers can run on the X86 server of their choice.
The company’s first foray into data duplication came in 2009, when it inked a deal with Data Domain which was a pioneer in data de-duplication. Data Domain was the industry leader for data de-duplication for years, and is still a formidable backup and recovery player as part of Dell EMC. But as the technology underlying data de-duplication has matured and the servers running have gotten more powerful, Data Domain’s market advantage has shrunk.
Eventually, LaserVault came to the conclusion that it needed its own data de-duplication technology. In a development effort led by LaserVault President Brad Jensen, the Tulsa, Oklahoma company created its own native de-duplication code and delivered it under the name BEdupe in 2022.
As LaserVault’s “homegrown source code,” BEDupe’s lowers the barrier to accessing de-duplication specifically for IBM i customers, says Ax Synar, vice president of sales.
“We wanted to have our own solution that, if people were looking specifically for an iSeries, IBM i backup solution with data de-duplication then they can use LaserVault for the entire solution,” Synar says. “So it’s a brand new feature that our customers are having some really good success with in terms of saving disk, saving replication time, saving cloud storage.”
LaserVault previously offered data compression with its ViTL offering, along with other features that are standard in this class of products, such as encryption and data replication. That compression capability was based on the zlib library and could shrink data by a 4-to-1 ratio, Synar says.
By comparison, the new data de-duplication capability can shrink IBM i volumes by anywhere from 10 to 1 to 40 to 1, with the average being around 12 to 1, Synar says. That brings a meaningful change to the size of the IBM i volumes, he says.
“It’s like, well, do I want to buy 100 TB of disk space, or can I do data de-duplication and only need 10 TB?” he says. “It’s a big different in cost.”
Not every backup server has the oomph to handle ViTL’s data de-duplication routines, which are processor-intensive. LaserVault recommends having a multi-processor system with at least 24 cores per processor, Synar says. Customers can get data de-duplication either by ordering a new ViTL appliance from LaserVault or buying an additional license (but be sure the backup server is able to handle the workload).
The excitement level over de-dupe has been high, and sales are now picking up, Synar says. “It’s pretty cool,” he tells IT Jungle. “It’s definitely the biggest thing we’ve done. It took some time to get it done, and it’s running at some of our customer sites right now.”
The move puts LaserVault in direct competition with its former partner Data Domain as well as Cybernetics, another backup appliance provider. These vendors continue to attack the market for IBM i backup solutions, Synar says.
The new IBM i de-dupe capability enhances LaserVault’s position relative to other industry players, including Rubrik, Cohesity, and ExaGrid, which LaserVault partners with. These vendors offer de-dupe for open systems, but not for IBM i, and now they can tap LaserVault for that capability, Synar says.
LaserVault has made several other changes to ViTL recently, including adding data replication to Wasabi, a provider of cloud storage. This gives IBM i customers another option for cloud storage in addition to the previous support for Microsoft Azure’s BLOB store and AWS’s Amazon S3.
Customers like the ability to immediately have a copy of their backups offsite for added disaster recovery protection, Synar says. “Cloud store can give you data protection where you have that offsite copy that cannot be touched with malware or ransomware,” he says. “It gives you some data immutability in terms of an offsite location which is not connected to your network.”
Beyond DR, cloud storage can also function as an archive. Some companies are required to keep 10 years’ worth of monthly backups, Synar says. That’s not really feasible with LTO tape technology, he says, but it’s doable with cloud storage.
The company also added support for LTO-8, which shipped in 2019 (the current generation is LTO-9), giving it support for LTO-2 through LTO-8. Companies with data on older generation LTO tapes can copy them into the LaserVault solution, and then store them elsewhere.
LaserVault also boosted the backup speed for ViTL. With a single Fibre Channel connector backing up data from a single partition, the backups can run at speeds up to 850 MB per second, compared to the previous speed limit of 450 MB per second. The peak ingestion speed for ViTL varies based on the number of physical FC ports and partitions, but Synar says he’s seen enterprise IBM i environments backing up data to the VTL at 2 GB per second.
Lastly, LaserVault has increased the number of virtual drives per FC connector. Previously, the limit was 15, and the new limit is 64. That would be quite a large environment, but LaserVault does have some enterprise accounts that will make use of the new headroom in terms of virtual drives, Synar says.
For more information on LaserVault solutions, see the company’s website at www.laservault.com.