Have VTLs or VxLs become Zombies, Declared dead yet still alive?

October 20, 2010 – 4:00 pm

Have you heard or read the reports and speculation that VTLs (Virtual Tape Libraries) are dead?

It seems that in IT the all to popular trend is to declare something dead so that your new product or technology can have a chance of making it in to the market or perhaps seen in a better light.

Sometimes this approach works to temporary freeze the market until common sense and clarity returns to the market or until something else fun to talk about comes along and in other cases, the messages can fall on deft ears.

The approach of declaring something dead tends to play well for those who like shiny new toys (SNT) or new shiny toys (NST) and being on the popular, cool trendy bandwagon.

Not surprisingly, while some actual IT customers can fall into the SNT or NST syndrome, its often the broader industry including media, bloggers, analysts, consultants and other self proclaimed or anointed pundits as well as vendors who latch on to the declare it dead movement. After all, who wants to talk about something that is old, boring and already being sold to paying customers who are using it. Now this is not a bad thing as we need a balance of up and coming challengers to keep the status quo challenged, likewise we need a balance of the new to avoid death grips on the old and what is working.

Likewise, many IT customers particularly larger ones tend to be very risk averse and conservative with their budgets protecting their investments thus they may only go leading bleeding edge if there is a dual redundant blood bank with a backup on hot standby (thats some HA humor BTW).

Another reason that declaring items dead in support of SNT and NST is that while many of the commonly declared dead items are on the proverbial plateau of productivity for IT customers, that also can mean that they are on the plateau of profitability for the vendors.

However, not all good things last and at sometime, there is the need to transition from the old to the new and this is where things like virtualization including virtual tape libraries or virtual disk libraries or virtual storage library or what ever you want to call a VxL (more on what a VxL is in a moment) can come into play.

I realize that for some, particularly those who like to grasp on to SNT, NST and ride the dead pool bandwagons this will probably appear as snarky or cynical which is fine, after all, for some, you should be laughing to the bank and if not, you may in fact be missing out on an opportunity for playing in the dead pool marketing game.

Now back to VxL.

In the case of VTLs, for some it is the T word that bothers them, you know T as in Tape which is not a SNT or NST in an age where SSD has supposedly killed the disk drive which allegedly terminated tape (yeah right). Sure tape is not being used as much for backup as it has in the past with its role shifting to that of longer term retention, something that it is well suited for.

For tape fans (or cynics) you can read more here, here and here. However there is still a large amount of backup/restore along with other data protection or preservation (e.g. archiving) processing (software tools, processes, procedures, skill sets, management tools) that still expects to see tape.

Hence this is where VTLs or VxLs come into play leveraging virtualization in an Life Beyond Consolidation (and here) scenario providing abstraction, transparency, agility and emulation and IMHO are still very much alive and evolving.

Ok, for those who do not like or believe in or of its continued existence and evolving role, substitute the T (tape) with X and you get a VxL. That is, plug in what ever X word that makes you happy or marketable or a Shiny New TLA. For example Virtual Disk Library, Virtual Storage Library, Virtual Backup Library, Virtual Compression Library, Virtual Dedupe Library, Virtual ILM Library, Virtual Archive Library, Virtual Cloud Library and so forth. Granted some VxLs only emulate tape and hence are VTLs while others support NAS and other protocols (or personalities) not to mention functionality ranging from replication, DFR as well as automated policy management.

However, keep in mind that if your preference is VTL, VxL or what ever other buzzword bingo name that you want to use or come up with, look at how virtualization in the form of abstraction, transparency and emulation can bridge the gap between the new (disk based data protection) combined with DFR (Data Footprint Reduction) and the old (existing backup/restore, archive or other management tools and processes.

Here are some additional links pertaining to VTLs (excuse me, VxLs):

Ok, nuff said.

Cheers gs

Greg Schulz – Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)

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