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Virtual Tape Opens Up

The IBM Virtualization Engine TS7510 helps customers manage their data.

The IBM Virtualization Engine TS7510 helps customers manage their data.

Managing data wasn't always so challenging. Then again, there wasn't always so much data to manage. And there wasn't always so little time.

As technology enables customers to produce greater amounts and types of information, privacy legislation is requiring customers to retain it for much longer periods. And all the while, as business demands mount, the time for backup windows rapidly dwindles. These realities mean that customers not only have more data, but more headaches from dealing with it. At a typical medium- to large-sized company, a storage administrator may need to manage numerous disparate devices and use multiple software packages to schedule backups.

"Customers certainly are retaining a lot of data," says IBM's Brad Johns, program director, tape marketing. "They're being asked to store large amounts of information for compliance or business purposes, plus they have more rich content, things like image files, that need to be stored and backed up now than they did five or 10 years ago. They want to have this data backed up in large databases and be able to easily access the backups."

To get what they want - a simpler way to manage their burgeoning storage environments - open-systems customers are seeking solutions that will save time and provide flexibility. IBM's response is its TS7510 Virtualization Engine*, a virtual tape library that, when combined with physical tape resources for longer-term storage, is designed to help customers reduce their backup windows, restore information more quickly and provide greater data availability.

The Growth of Virtualization

Introduced last fall, the TS7510 is the first member of the IBM* TS7000 Series of virtual tape libraries (see Figure 1). Built upon IBM disk and server technology, the TS7510 emulates -- or virtualizes -- tape libraries, tape drives and tape media in open-systems environments that connect to Fibre Channel (FC) storage systems. The solution not only supports the IBM System p5* and xSeries* systems, but Intel* technology-based systems and selected Sun and HP UNIX* technology-based servers (see Figure 2). On the operating system side, the TS7510 supports the latest Red Hat and SUSE Linux distributions.

While mainframe customers have used virtual tape solutions for years, such products are fairly new to the open systems marketplace. But Johns notes that the message about virtualization -- that it provides an easier way to pool storage resources in heterogeneous environments -- is clearly getting out, as IBM and other solution providers emerge with new products.

"This is a pretty hot area right now," he says. "Virtual tape libraries are really starting to get some traction in the marketplace - that's not an IBM-specific statement. From talking to customers at briefing centers, I know that more than a handful of them have implemented virtual tape. At least when you ask the question now, there are people who put up their hands. A year ago, everyone looked at their shoes."

"Virtual tape libraries are really starting to get some traction in the marketplace-that's not an IBM-specific statement." -Brad Johns, program director, IBM tape marketing

Neil Tardy is a contributing writer to IBM Systems Magazine. Neil can be reached at ntardy@msptechmedia.com.


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