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Virtual Tape Array


In response to market demand, NexiTech has created a modular Virtual Tape Array storage appliance, the “next generation Virtual Tape Array”, or “VTAng” (vee-tang). One thing that differentiates VTAng from other products in the market is its ability to be customized.

VTAng is a hardware/software product that transforms an ordinary computer or rackmount server and the hard disk storage that is attached to it into a disk-to-disk (D2D) Backup Appliance. The product is aimed at IT Directors and Managers in the Small- to Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) market, and is used for the purpose of accelerating Backup and Restore operations.

Virtual Tape Emulation technology is used to create a device server that acts just like a bunch of tape drives (JBOT) from the perspective of one or more host computers, or Backup Servers. Since the Backup Appliance presents a view of one or more “virtual” tape drives to the host, it is appropriately called a Virtual Tape Array. Similar to a Virtual Tape Library (VTL), but faster, the Virtual Tape Array offers many of the same benefits as a VTL but with less complexity and lower cost of ownership.

VTAng appliances are delivered in two different ways: (a) in “head” form, where the hardware and software is bundled with a 1U or 2U rackmount server, but with minimal internal storage, or (b) in “disk” form, where additional disk storage is bundled in with the 3U appliance (pictured above). The reason for offering the product in these formats is that different customers have different requirements. Some customers want to try out virtual tape technology and at the same time save some money by using the “head” to convert legacy equipment into a D2D backup appliance. This helps them to preserve their existing investments in storage resources by extending the useful lifetime of those resources (yesterday’s primary storage may be useful as today’s secondary storage). Customers like the convenience of buying a more integrated solution that the “head” form brings, and they want to use it as a controller for some existing external hard disk storage (e.g. RAID or JBOD arrays) that they already have in their possession.

The “disk” version provides a higher level of integration by bundling hard disk storage in with the D2D backup appliance. And with the use of ruggedized Removable-Disk storage devices, the subsystem becomes a D2D2RD backup appliance, allowing users to archive backups with a true tape replacement technology, portable hard drives packaged for removability. Storage security is always a concern, but even more so when moving data off-site. To address that concern, there is an optional hardware-based compression/encryption engine.

We can also provide the product in "kit" form, depending on the existing hardware you wish to use. Give us a call or e-mail us for details.

VTAng is simple to use and manage. A Graphical User Interface (GUI) is provided for defining virtual tape drives and for configuring the associated Bus, Target, and LUN values that will be seen by the host. The devices are conveniently arranged in a device tree, and any drives with media loaded are shown in boldface. The user can easily define the file that is used for the backing store and the file size by simply clicking on a device. Virtual tape media can be loaded or unloaded with a click of the mouse, and all virtual tape devices can be started or stopped at once. The GUI provides the ability to trace all the SCSI commands sent to a particular virtual tape device and will save that information to a trace file. The iSCSI device mappings are also configured graphically, giving the user the ability to define which devices are mapped to iSCSI targets. In addition, iSCSI secure connection parameters may be configured, such as the Challenge / Handshake Authentication Protocol (CHAP) settings.

For those users that wish to manage the VTAng backup appliance remotely, Remote Desktop is bundled with Windows Unified Data Storage Server 2003 R2, the OS running on the appliance. Clients are available for most Windows versions, so a Windows client can control the desktop of the appliance and manage it over a simple network connection as if sitting right next to it. However, for this to work, the client (remote workstation) and the server (backup appliance) must be on the same network (i.e. no firewall is in between them). If a firewall exists, then Virtual Private Network (VPN) software must be installed (available at additional cost).

Support for those particular tape drives that are emulated by VTAng is bundled with Windows. So for many customers, connecting a VTAng backup appliance is quite easy. The host automatically detects the virtual tape drives and loads the correct driver. Currently supported tape device emulations include 8mm, DLT, with LTO coming soon.

To download a free NexiTech iVTL evaluation kit, click here.

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