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Are VTL's and archiving software going to replace Tapes?

Chris Evans (http://storagearchitect.blogspot.com) has raised the VTL question and Copan's were mentioned a couple of times.  I find his blog to be very informative and it looks like he has the same issues as I do.  I don't want to steal his thunder on this but I would like to open it up a bit regarding what the future of VTL is.

My management seems to hate Tapes.  I recently moved all our backup hardware into our Director based SAN from standalone switches.  I now have about 24 tape drives and a couple of small VTL's spread across a couple of data centres.   The Brocade switches and HTnM now complain bitterly about a buffer credit zero metric.  I used to have a couple of them across our SAN extension but now I get them though the fabrics including the USP ports.  The tape drives are doing something to cause this issue but I can't figure it out.

Each tape drive can deliver about 30 MB's max throughput but you rarely see them all working.  Our DR solution regarding tape backups is complex and needs some tweaking as I imagine all companies do.

So, now we are implementing Copan VTL's and archiving solutions (and perhaps tiered storage in some form or another) in a smallish stand alone environment just to see how well it goes.

The Copan VTL's will automatically replicate backups to our DR site in native fibre.  So there is a solution to off site storage of data that is done in almost real time.  The disks are cheapish and the VTL back's up at normal fibre speed of up to 200 MBs (umm.. lets say up to 150 but one VTL equals 5 tape drives in performance).  I also don't have issues with tapes being tapes and going off line.

Tapes cost a fair amount of money and we use lots and lots of them.  We also have people whose job is to look after them and that must be a mind numbing experience.

I can fit 448 TB in a single cabinet but as it is so heavy, it is going to fall through the floor one day.  Its load rating is considerable even compared to a fully maxed out USP.  I doubt most data centres can actually cope with it.  But, 448 TB in one cabinet is impressive.  My USP's have only 146 TB in five cabinets.

Along with archiving, we might be able to remove our tape libraries which are about the size of a small truck and replace them with a couple of Copans in each data centre.  Not to mention, the Copan's are green.

I would like to see even more discussion on this especially from anyone doing what I am doing and even more.  Will the humble Tape drive still be in use by 2010 other than to read old tapes?

Chris Evans Blog has a poll that says a good percentage use VTL's now.  I would like to see how many aim to get rid of tape drives as the main backup strategy.  In other words, no more disk to disk to tape except for special regulatory cases if that still occurs now.

Stephen 

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