Sepaton Goes Standard on VTL

Ditches custom hardware for Intel processor, expands capacity, and adds compression

April 21, 2005

3 Min Read
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In a nod to the increasing commoditization of storage hardware, Sepaton Inc. is rolling out a new virtual tape library (VTL) based on industry-standard parts.

Sepaton next week will announce its second-generation VTL, which will replace its original offering based on proprietary hardware. The S2100-ES2 uses Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) Xeon processors instead of the custom-built motherboard in the original S2100-ES (see Sepaton's Got Virtual Tape).

Sepaton business development VP Paul Feresten says industry-standard parts allow Sepaton to build more scaleable systems and offer more frequent upgrades. Hes also hoping the change makes it easier for the startup to land OEM deals.

Xiotech Corp. used the same reasoning when it launched its latest SAN system based on Xeon processors earlier this month (see Xiotech Regroups and Xiotech Gives Magnitude a Tuneup).

“The notion of a company like us using a proprietary piece of hardware was more negative than positive -- it couldn’t scale well,” Feresten says. “At heart, we’re a software company, and we needed to demonstrate that our software runs on industry-standard hardware. It doesn’t make sense for us to be in the custom hardware business.”Mesabi Group LLC analyst David Hill says it makes sense for hardware vendors to get away from proprietary designs.

“It makes life easier on the customer,” Hill says. “There are some types of devices where proprietary hardware is needed -- for example, chips on a switch for virtualization. But customers generally don’t want proprietary hardware. Using standard hardware allows Sepaton to build software and move things forward faster.”

New partnerships and frequent product upgrades could be keys to Sepaton’s survival. Sepaton claims about 50 customers since launching product in December 2003, but VTL competition is increasing. It includes other startups Copan Systems Inc., Diligent Technologies Corp., and MaXXan Systems Inc.; tape library vendors Advanced Digital Information Corp. (Nasdaq: ADIC), Quantum Corp. (NYSE: DSS), and Storage Technology Corp. (StorageTek) (NYSE: STK); and EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC), FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC), and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP). NetApp purchased Sepaton rival Alacritus Software Inc. earlier this month to gain a VTL product to complement its growing disk backup business (see NetApp Annexes Alacritus).

The S2100-ES2 has several enhancements over its predecessor. It scales to 1 PByte instead of 200 TBytes, has a GUI interface for management, includes software compression to hold more data, and allows the transfer of virtual tapes between libraries.

Some of Sepaton’s best features are still to come, though. Feresten says Sepaton is developing hardware compression and hopes to make it available by September. While software compression can cut performance in half, Feresten says Sepaton’s hardware compression will run at about 90 percent of the speed of the system in native mode. Quantum is also developing hardware compression in March, and analysts expect more vendors to follow (see Compression Makes an Impression and Quantum Delivers HW Compression ).Sepaton also plans to offer synthetic full backups by the end of June. These kinds of backups, which most major vendors support, merge the last full backup with data from incremental backups to shorten the backup window. Sepaton stores pointers to the most recent version of each file on its appliance so it can be quickly recovered when needed. Sepaton's synthetic full application has been in beta testing since October (see Sepaton Goes Fully Synthetic).

Pricing for the S2100-ES2 starts at $60,000 for a 3.5-TByte system.

— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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