A Disk In Disguise

Tape has a reputation of being a reliable, portable and flexible method of backing up data. However, because it is difficult to recover data from tape backups, in addition to other weaknesses, the technology is gradually becoming the black sheep of the storage and backup industry.

Restoring critical applications and data from tape requires a significant amount of time, and pinpointing a single file or snapshot from tape can be troublesome.
With the emergence of disk-to-disk (D2D) backup technology and the declining prices of these systems, companies are recognizing it as a cheaper, faster and higher performance alternative to tape.

Diligent Technologies' VTF Open, a virtual tape software emulator, replicates practices, policies and procedures used in tape backups and uses D2D technology to appear to the system as a physical tape drive.

The software emulates an automated tape library in every way. It emulates tape's robots, drives and cartridges, and uses the tape array as the backup medium. VTF Open is so convincing that when creating an array and walking through installation, it asks the administrator if he would like to clean the tape drive.

The software is easy to incorporate into any infrastructure, including Legato, Tivoli or Veritas backup servers. This allows solution providers to create customized backup systems for their customers by using any available hardware and software to best fit a company's needs.

CRN Test Center engineers installed VTF Open on a Dell 1650 server running Redhat Linux 9.0. Setup requires that the software run on top of Red Hat Linux, and Emulex HBAs are required to be included in the server. The disk array was a Clariion CX400 with 5 Fibre Channel and 15 ATA drives, which had two storage controllers. The Veritas Netbackup 4.5 server was a Dell 1650 running Windows 2000 SP4 and using Emulex HBAs.

Installation was easy, and VTF Open required no change to the existing infrastructure. Creating and deleting arrays was surprisingly simple, and the GUI was easy to navigate.

One minor problem is the lack of a password confirmation when creating or deleting an array. Any administrator logged in through the root can perform these actions without confirming his password. A confirmation or other security failsafe seems necessary to prevent accidental deletion of data.

VTF Open starts at $25,000 and the price increases based on the number of front-end port connections to the backup server and the number and size of the tape library it will emulate. The $25,000 package includes a single front-end port (FE), which can emulate four virtual tape libraries and 24 tape drives. VTF Open is scalable to four FE ports, 16 virtual libraries and 128 tape drives from a single server. Up to four servers can be combined in clusters for massive I/O and capacity.
The ability to cluster servers creates excellent failover capability and provides an extremely available solution.

Diligent's single-level channel program currently includes 14 VARs. Resellers should have a background in storage, be well-versed in backup and recovery or be able to provide backup applications for resale.

The company provides sales training and a dedicated Web site with support resources. An e-mail newsletter with product and solution updates is planned.

Diligent prefers to work with resellers on the first few product installations for training purposes, and provides this service for free. Average reseller margin is 40 percent, but solution providers can increase their revenue by offering additional hardware and services.

> VTF Open
COMPANY: Diligent Technologies
Framingham, Mass.
(508) 663-1300
DISTRIBUTORS: Abba Technologies, AvoCon, Datalink, JAAG, Matrix, Missouri Information Solutions, Stack Computer, Structured Communication Systems, TriAxis

Note: Vendors can earn up to five stars for technical merit and five for their channel program. If the average of these two scores is four stars or greater, the product earns CRN Test Center Recommended status.