Virtual Tape Library

Introduction

Tape is not dead and never will be. There are few reasons that keep it alive: cheap capacity, even comparing to modern high capacity SATA spindles, long-term vaulting capabilities that can last for decades, and regulatory requirements that a lot of companies or organizations are forced to adhere to. Also, cloud storage providers utilize tapes for their cheapest cloud tiers like Amazon S3, Glacier and Azure Blob storage, designed for the least frequently accessed data, competing with local tape setups rather than tape technology itself.

Problem
Backup time doesn’t fit the backup window since the amount of data that needs to be backed up increases
exponentially all the time. This is the main concern that traditional tape backup solutions have in common. Snapshots are taken when the system is under a light workload. Therefore, if the backup time is longer than the backup window, the backup processes overlap with production workload, which results in two negative consequences:
  • Significant downgrade of the systems performance;
  • Risk remaining without a backup, leaving the data unprotected and regulatory requirements violated.
Backup to tape takes a lot of time and does not fit into backup window
Solution
StarWind Virtual Tape Library (VTL) converts the inexpensive, high capacity SATA drives into virtual tapes, emulating real existing tape hardware. It is distributed as a part of StarWind Virtual SAN functionality and is also available in StarWind Backup Appliance. Apart from HDD, the VTL can offload all the data to even less expensive public cloud storages like Azure Glacier and AWS S3, providing adherence to “3-2-1” backup rule.

Backup is significantly accelerated since VTL is utilizing SATA HDD, which are faster comparing to traditional physical tapes. As the result, the backups take less time and fit the backup windows, so there’s no risk of backup process to overlap with the production processes. Thus, the performance of the production system is stable. The possibility of the backup process being interrupted is decreased, therefore, the backup will not be corrupted or lost. Using StarWind VTL brings beneficial side-effects:
  • It allows implementing Disk-to-Disk-to-Tape (D2D2T) backup strategy. Thus, each chain of the backup process link will contain 1 copy of the data, which is 1 more in comparison with D2T strategy;
  • It allows implementing Disk-to-Disk (D2D) backup strategy, thus, the companies that are not under regulatory requirements, that are not forced to store backups on physical tapes or have no need to vault all data can benefit from really fast backup process;
  • It allows implementing Disk-to-Disk-to-Cloud (D2D2C) backup strategy. It is essentially a variation of D2D2T approach that gives higher flexibility and cost-efficiency by replacing local tape drives with inexpensive “tape in cloud” storage.

StarWind VTL preserves existing current infrastructure. As the result, there is no need to get rid of existing tape backup infrastructure since StarWind seamlessly integrates it into any running infrastructure by migrating from D2T to D2D2T backup strategy
Backup is performed on faster HDD, then to tape or public cloud in background mode
Conclusion

StarWind VTL seamlessly integrates into existing infrastructure and allows the backup process to fit the backup window. As the result, it creates an additional snapshot copy, meets regulatory requirements, significantly decreases backup cost and keeps the performance of the system stable by increasing the speed of the backup process. Additionally, StarWind Virtual Tape Library supports cloud deployment scenario, foregoing the expensive local storage in favor of cost-efficient cloud service. In comparison with local HDD-based storage, keeping data on inexpensive cloud tiers like Azure Glacier and AWS S3 is much less costly. These cloud storages are designed for infrequently accessed data like backups and archives and are typically stored on physical tapes by the providers, which makes StarWind Virtual Tape Library a perfect tool for them, as it uses virtual tape format.

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