Virtual tape, and later virtual tape libraries (VTL) have been used in the data center for more than 15 years. With the increasing volume of data organizations have to deal with, new needs and expectations have emerged in terms of backup solutions and strategies, and while VTL was seen as a high performance backup solution in the past, it is now in its sunset phase.
Analysts estimate that the amount of data produced globally more than doubles every two years - 1.8 trillion gigabytes in 500 quadrillion files. In Asia-Pacific, 72 per cent of organizations rate the exponential growth and increasing complexity of data as one of their top data management challenges. Such figures have led to revolutionary industry changes over the past decade - e.g. increases in storage platform capacity - developed out of a necessity to store and restore these growing pools of data easily. The debate over whether disk or tape is the better solution to backup this increasing amount of complex data has been going on for quite some time now. In fact, Virtual Tape Library is increasingly perceived as an old technology, while disk appears to be a more reliable option for data storage and recovery.
The evolution of storage
Data Protection has been around since the dawn of our industry. The need to back up data became apparent as soon as the first computers were turned on, and the burgeoning computer industry developed a low cost storage media as a target for protection copies of data in the form of tape.
The original concept of data protection was a simple 1:1 relationship between a source data set and a target tape drive. This was relevant and efficient while data volumes were small, but data growth demanded new and better technologies.
Over time, new technologies were developed to cope with ever increasing data volumes. These techniques included enablement of many to one relationships between servers and tape infrastructure (multi-streaming) and one to many relationships between servers and tape drives (multiplexing).
While these technologies addressed protection backup window pain points that were starting to ripple through IT departments, ultimately we found that the advances were substantially lacking in a fundamental outcome of data protection - the rapid restore.
Enter the VTL. For some 15 years, the VTL has been solving the slow restore pain point caused by the many to one relationship between hosts and target tape infrastructure. The VTL allowed systems administrators to pretend that a disc drive was a tape drive, which also kept compatibility with legacy data protection schemes.
Facing today's new backup expectations
Primary storage costs have greatly diminished in this time and the primary storage market place is now crowded with vendor margins shrinking rapidly.
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