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You can have it all

Apr 20, 20043 mins
Data Center

* Virtual tape devices are good, fast and cheap

My old friend Stan is a really perceptive guy. I say this not because he once had the wisdom to hire me many years ago (although that certainly was a good thing too – at least from my point of view), but because he was remarkably good at providing a synthesis of even the most challenging concepts. And he always seemed able to reduce the most complex issues to their simplest components. 

I remember once during a meeting on product development he reduced a problem to its bare bones by writing three words on the whiteboard:  “GOOD, FAST, CHEAP.”  After a few seconds, he added the explanatory note “Pick any two.” 

Think about it.  It made a lot of sense 10 years ago, and as anyone involved in R&D can tell you, when it comes to product development it’s still a pretty good guiding principle today.                   

Disk-based data protection solutions, particularly in the form of virtual tape libraries, continue to gain momentum in the marketplace.  Customers at all sizes of IT shops are looking to them as a means of faster data recovery, improved reliability, and cost-effective data protection. 

Why faster? Because virtual tape libraries rely on disk rather than tape, and disk can be accessed faster than tape in just about every write and read scenario.  

Why improved reliability?  Because disk media has been proven over the years to have a much longer lifespan than does tape media; disk mechanisms are in general more reliable than tape devices; and disk devices can be aggregated easily into arrays with an even greater mean time between failure (MTBF). 

Tapes however have historically been much cheaper than disks, and for that reason tape technologies have provided a very useful and cost-efficient method for storing large amounts of data – as long as managers didn’t require that the data be recovered both instantly and cheaply.  That’s why IT organizations have invested so many years worth of time, effort and money in building and maintaining scripts to run tape-based backup and recovery procedures.

Because virtual tape libraries look to these scripts just like physical tape drives however, managers now really do have the best of both worlds. Managers can do faster and more reliable backups and recoveries, file migrations, and so forth, and they can do them while using all those old scripts and procedures that they developed over the decades for their tape-based operations. 

Virtual tape offerings are available for most IT environments now, and suitable virtual tape solutions will be available for all IT rooms, from Microsoft-only shops to mainframe settings, in the very near future.  I have looked at many of these systems – both released products and future technologies – over the past several months, and it is a sure thing that they represent solutions that have all the attributes of being fast, good and cheap. 

I am still convinced of the wisdom behind Stan’s rule when it comes to R&D, but with the arrival of virtual tape devices on the IT floor we are coming to the point where “fast,” “good” and (relatively) “cheap” really can all come in one package.