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VTL Becomes an Academic Issue

SAN FRANCISCO -- Stanford is in the middle of a storage bake-off, and the
lucky winner will get to supply virtual tape libraries to the university.

After inviting 10 vendors to respond to an RFP issued a few months ago, the
university's central IT department whittled the shortlist down to four: EMC,
IBM, Network Appliance, and Sepaton. They've already tested IBM and NetApp;
they're getting ready to beat up on EMC and Sepaton gear and expect to have
named a contract winner before the end of the month, said Dan Stillmaker,
director of storage systems at Stanford, during a session at the Storage
Decisions conference here this week.

He wouldn't divulge any early results, other than to say he unplugged one
vendor's box in the middle of a test run that failed to come back on once plugged
back in. He wouldn't say if it was the IBM or NetApp box. He claimed no
reluctance to buy from a smaller vendor like Sepaton, if in fact the price-performance analysis favors them over the larger players involved.

The university's weighing a number of factors in its evaluation, and just recently concluded a similar bake-off for NAS gear. So while cost is always an issue, it's not the final criterion. "The biggest thing we want to be able to do is drop in the VTL without changing our current environment. We don't have time for that right now," he said.

While vendors have made 20:1 compression claims, Stillmark's a bit dubious; he said actual rates are probably closer to 4:1 -- and this is what the university's evaluation phase is about. "We want to know exactly what we'll be getting," he said.

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