Symantec Targets Disk

Partners with VTL vendors in hopes of doing backups better than virtual tape

November 15, 2006

3 Min Read
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Symantec says it wants to improve its disk-based backup, and by disk-based backup it doesn't mean virtual tape libraries (VTLs). (See Symantec Launches API.)

Symantec today announced a NetBackup OpenStorage API, in hopes of improving the integration between its enterprise backup software and disk backup devices. NetBackup group manager Mike Adams says the idea is to forge a better way of backing up to disk than VTL provides.

"We're concentrating on treating disk like disk," Adams says, as opposed to VTL treating disk as tape. "We want to leverage disk without the emulation layer involved that VTL uses."

Adams says Symantec will support VTLs, but the goal is to write data to disk more efficiently than VTLs do. VTLs work by emulation tape, so the backup process is the same except data is being written to disk.

Strangely, Symantec's API partners consists largely of VTL vendors. EMC, Network Appliance, Sun, Copan, DataDomain, Diligent, Falcon, Quantum, and Sepaton are developing products based on the API, which will be generally available with the release of NetBackup 6.5 around the middle of next year.So how did Symantec get a bunch of VTL vendors to go along with a plan to replace VTL? Larger vendors such as EMC, NetApp, and Sun have other disk products that can take advantage of disk backup. If VTL goes away, they're not sunk.

But smaller companies such as Sepaton and Diligent have built businesses around VTL. They're counting on realizing short term gains from partnering with Symantec while hoping the long term pain never comes.

Sepaton CTO Miklos Sandorfi says his company has been pushing Symantec to do an open API since 2003. As for Symantec's take on making disk backup more effective than VTLs, "That's a nice marketing position, but the reality is they [Symantec] are still based on tape," Sandorfi says. "They have the same limitations, such as they can't read and write the same image at the same time. Emulation doesn't add much overhead. We already talk to tape, and VTL is the best way of doing that."

StorageIO Group analyst Greg Schulz says the API will help Symantec and its partners in the short term. Symantec can make NetBackup compatible with backup hardware, and the disk vendors will guarantee their products work with the market leader in backup software. But it could force a move away from VTLs down the road.

"In the long term, a VTL vendor who clings with a death grip to VTL could be in for a rough ride," Schulz says. "They have to evolve. VTL vendors will have to do more than just emulate tape. They'll have to function as a NAS or do another type of disk backup."For now, VTL vendors such as Sepaton -- which is No Tapes spelled backwards -- have an uneasy truce with tape backup but Sandorfi says he sees both surviving.

"As much as our company is 'No tapes,' it's more about using disk for tape functions instead of the death of tape," he says.

Symantec says the program will permit NetBackup to:

  • Enable high speed disk backup and recovery over Fibre Channel or IP connections.

  • Virtualize pools of disk so they can be shared by multiple media servers, enabling load balancing and failover.

  • Replicate backup images between data centers for disaster recovery or vaulting.

  • Use data de-duplication and single instance storage to reduce backup loads and increase speed.

  • Simplify management by having one policy layer and catalog to control backup and recovery.

Dave Raffo, News Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Copan Systems Inc.

  • Data Domain Inc. (Nasdaq: DDUP)

  • World Cellular Information Service (WCIS)

  • FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Quantum Corp. (NYSE: QTM)

  • The StorageIO Group

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Symantec Corp.

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