D2D Deduplication Virtual Tape

Analyst Commentary on VTL

I am often perusing industry related sites to find what people are saying about disaster recovery and data protection. Most of these sites rely on independent contributors to provide the content. Given the myriad of viewpoints and experience levels, it is not uncommon to see a wide range of commentaries, some consistent with industry trends, and others not. I keep this in mind when reading these articles and generally ignore inconsistencies; however once in a while an article is so egregiously wrong that I feel a response is necessary.

In this case, I am referring to an article appearing in eWeek where the author makes gross generalizations about VTL that are misleading at best. Let’s walk through his key points:

VTLs are complex

I completely disagree. The reason most people purchase VTLs is that they simplify data protection and can be implemented with almost no change in tape policies or procedures. This means that companies do not have relearn new procedures after implementing a VTL and thus the implementation is relatively simple and not complex like he suggests.

He also mentions that most VTLs use separate VTL software and storage. This is true for solutions from some of the big storage vendors, but is not the case with the SEPATON S2100-ES2. We manage the entire appliance including storage provisioning and performance management.

Finally, he complains about the complexity of configuring Fibre Channel (FC). While it is true that FC can be more complex than Ethernet it really depends on how you configure the system. One option is to direct connect the VTL which requires none of the FC complexities he harps on. He also glosses over the fact that FC is much faster than the alternatives which is an important benefit. (My guess is that he is comparing the VTL to Ethernet, but he never clearly states this.)

Backup Restore Virtual Tape

Rube Goldberg reborn as a VTL

I have fond memories from my childhood of Rube Goldberg contraptions. I was always amazed at how he would creatively use common elements to implement these crazy machines. By using every day items for complicated contraptions, he made even the simplest process look incredibly complex and difficult. But that was the beauty of it, no one would ever use the devices in practice, but it was the whimsical and complex nature of his drawings that made them so fun to look it.

Rube Goldberg Definition
Image courtesy of

It is the in the context of Rube Goldberg that I find myself thinking about the EMC DL3D 4000 virtual tape library. Like, Goldberg, EMC has taken an approach to VTL and deduplication that revolves around adding complexity to what should be a relatively simple process. Unfortunately, I don’t think that customers will treat the solution with the same whimsical and fun perspective as they did with Goldberg’s machines.

You may think that this is just sour grapes from an EMC competitor, but I am not the only one questioning the approach. Many industry analysts and backup administrators are confused and left scratching their heads just like this author. Why the confusion? Let me explain.