Virtual Tape Libraries

We compare two very different virtual tape solutions for IBM users

In a recently published survey commissioned by IT Jungle, 54% of the IBM i installed base was found to be still using tape as part of their overall backup and recovery strategy. The origins of tape storage date back to 1928, so why do businesses still use this form of technology for their IBM i environment, when physical tape use is nearly non-existent in Intel based environments? One of the historic reasons is that physical tape was seen as cost effective when compared to virtual tape solutions in the marketplace. While that has been true in the past that is no longer the case.

First let’s look into the true cost of physical tape media. In addition to the tape media itself there is the additional cost of moving tape media offsite (air-gapping) directly or through a third party. Beyond the financial cost of removing physical tapes offsite there is the security risk that your tape media might get misplaced while offsite. There is also the opportunity cost of internal staff having to change tapes and perform checks on data integrity on a  regular basis.

As mentioned before the cost of virtual tape libraries (VTL) has been relatively expensive in the past, but now there are two solutions we would like to make you aware of for businesses of all sizes .

The first virtual tape offering is Falconstor, an enterprise solution officially endorsed by IBM, the DSI VTL has been thoroughly tested by IBM.

Quadstor is the second option available to IBM i users. This is an open source solution and is therefore significantly cheaper than DSI. The trade off however is that there is limited support for the solution and it is not officially endorsed by  IBM. Below we review the two solutions in more detail.

Falconstor

Falconstor StorSafe® is a 100% software VTL (Virtual Tape Library) product that runs on industry-standard servers or VMs located on-premises and in the cloud. Falconstor StorSafe VTL emulates multiple-vendor physical tape libraries and tape drives over iSCSI or Fibre Channel. It is 100% compatible with enterprise backup software, including BRMS on IBMi, so can be seamlessly integrated into your existing backup processes.

As well as offering impressive backup and restore performance speeds, Storsafe leverages patented, industry-leading deduplication technology and can provide offsite protection through asynchronous replication to another Storsafe instance.

Emulation of Tape Libraries and Tape drives combined with native support for backup tools, makes it easy for administrators to manage their backup infrastructure. All operations and process are transparent and continue as normal. The only difference is that backup and restore is faster, and data is stored more reliably and efficiently.

Quadstor

Similar to the Falconstor solution, Quadstor will remove tape handling costs and improve backup and restore times. The trade-off however is the lack of support and IBM endorsement, so some organisations see this as too great a risk.

If there is an issue with your IBM i backup there will be no support available from IBM and only limited support from Quadstor themselves. Alternatively, if this is something organisations are comfortable with then the Quadstor solution is more than capable of modernizing your business tape backup strategy . 

In summary, physical tape media is an older technology, with a relatively large management overhead compared to virtual tape libraries. Although, virtual tape libraries were seen as expensive in the past, the cost has reduced dramatically and they are now a viable option for organisations looking to reduce backup times and a simpler way of performing regular backups.

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