The Dilemma: Tape-Based Backups or VTL? Must You Choose?

IT Infrastructure - Other
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

You've been hearing a lot of talk in the industry about this new technology that allows you to realistically eliminate your dependence on tape-based backups and go completely to a disk-based system. But you're unsure of what that means to you. Your sentimental side sees those tape backup systems that you have grown and nurtured into their senior years: they are hard-working and reliable; they come to work each day and do exactly what they are designed to do. Even though they are not the fastest performers, they just keep chugging along. You also have a lot of history with them that you want (or have) to maintain. Maybe you should look at that new tapeless technology and just get rid of them, but you cannot bring yourself to do it just yet.

With each passing day, you know the decision has to be made, so you finally pick up the stack of trade journals on your desk and start looking at Virtual Tape Library (VTL) technology. You close the door to your office so your collection of tape libraries that have performed so well for you through the years do not see you researching how you can replace them. You are amazed by the different versions of VTLs that are out there and the many options available.

Fear not! You have the advantage of being in a market where the technology is advancing faster than in any other market, and VTL devices are becoming more and more accommodating for use in enterprise data centers with a variety of systems.

I'll talk about some of the most common and most effective strategies for the implementation of VTL technology in your data center so that your entire environment can realize the many advantages a VTL has to offer.

VTL Advantages

First, you get the opportunity to choose how much or how little you want to utilize tape for a backup and, more importantly, a recovery media. You should keep in mind that a tape-based backup and recovery process has a high probability of failure in the backup process or, worse, during a recovery.

Second, disk is simply faster. As for backing up to disk, the speed of tape (LTO3) can be comparable to disk, but nothing compares to the speed of data recovery from disk. Because the recovery process is critical to getting your company back in business, your focus should be on this capability first; then you can worry about the recovery.

Third, did I mention that you could eliminate tape?

Depending upon the VTL technology you choose, you get a variety of other options from which you should choose wisely; a wrong decision now could cost you more in the future. You want to choose a solution that provides a solid foundation you can build on as your organization grows.

Implementation in the System i Data Center

Since your data center is a picture of growth, where you likely have systems that have been acquired to serve specific purposes, the variety of connection technologies can range from SCSI to fibre on your System i and from SCSI to fibre and even iSCSI on the open systems environments. Since you also want to realize the benefit of the VTL technology across your other platforms, you may be concerned about how the technology you choose can fit without a heavy investment in network conversion devices or replacement technology.

As mentioned, the VTL technology is advancing. VTL vendors know that they need to be accommodating of heterogeneous environments, and some have risen to the challenge. You should look for vendors that work closely with the System i backup application vendors so that you know that ensuring integration with the System i is being done with some specific System i expertise.

Implementation Scenario

One of the best things about VTL technology is that the quality vendors have designed their solutions to essentially be a plug-and-play device you place it into your backup network, and away you go. The better VTL vendors can have you installed and operational within a few hours. You will, however, have to invest time in configuring the system for your specific use, and you should look to a vendor or a vendor partner that can assist you in that effort.

Do you remember your beloved tape devices that you were so afraid of offending by considering a VTL? Well, you have something for them also. A few of the VTL vendors in the marketplace offer the ability to continue the utilization of these pieces of equipment by having the ability to do a true disk-to-disk-to-tape process. You gain the VTL advantages and still have the ability to retrieve data on the old media. Every CIO out there knows that this is required by law and that the inability to do this could result in fines and/or jail time.

At the beginning of your design, you must first think about what is driving your decision: cost or productivity. Depending upon your answer, you can go a couple different directions.

If your System i is currently utilizing a SCSI connection to your tape device and you still know that your gradual progression will lead you to a fibre or even iSCSI technology, there are VTL vendors that supply this capability. With the leading VTL vendors, the implementation is as easy as plugging your System i into the VTL along with any other devices necessary. You can then also utilize your tape devices after the VTL device is installed.

An important note here is to ensure that your backup application has been proven to work well with the VTL technology and will still control the virtual device along with the physical devices.

This implementation allows you to avoid the cost of converting your System i to a fibre tape controller.

If you are lucky enough either to have fibre connectivity to your iSeries already or to be able to afford the cost of conversion to fibre, you can implement quickly and in conjunction with iSCSI systems. This configuration gives you tremendous advantage because the VTL can perform at its top-rated speed and provide you the best return on performance possible.

In both of the above implementations, no matter what the connection technology requirements are, a VTL can be implemented so that your data center can benefit from the technology.

Other Important Points Regarding VTL Technology

The ability to connect into your environment is one critical feature for defining a VTL purchase, but other features need to be considered and deserve to be mentioned.

  • Integration with a System i backup applicationVery few VTL vendors actually integrate well with the System i, so it is critical to have a configuration that has been tested and proven with the System i.
  • Scalability—What is your growth plan for backup data growth? You need a system that can offer you ease of growth and preferably incremental, worry-free expansion of disk capacity.
  • Encryption—VTL technology exists that offers the ability to encrypt the data going to tape or being replicated to another VTL device.
  • De-duplicationThis technology is one to watch, and anyone not preparing for an implementation is possibly overlooking a very valuable capability. In some VTL technology, a 10:1 and up to 25:1 data storage reduction ratio can be realized through the removal of duplicate data. You will want to make sure this is a post-backup process so you do not interfere with the backup window.
  • Data Replication over IPIn today's world of disaster recovery, this capability a critical. If the desire is to eliminate tape, data replication over IP is a necessity.

The Best of Both Worlds

In summary, don't worry about hurting those old, dependable tape device's feelings; you can continue to get value from them even if the new VTL technology is implemented. It is, however, key to ensure that the connectivity capabilities exist with a VTL product and that both the VTL supplier and the provider of the backup and recovery application being utilized have a history with the System i.

Lon Gretillat is the Vice President of Business Development for LXI Enterprise Storage in Mason City, Iowa. LXI is the premier provider of enterprise backup and recovery solutions for the System i marketplace. LXI is a strategic partner of FalconStor Software and distributes the FalconStor VTL with the LXI Media Management System.



Support MC Press Online





  • White Paper: Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization

    SB Profound WP 5539

    If your business is thinking about modernizing your legacy IBM i (also known as AS/400 or iSeries) applications, you will want to read this white paper first!

    Download this paper and learn how Node.js can ensure that you:
    - Modernize on-time and budget - no more lengthy, costly, disruptive app rewrites!
    - Retain your IBM i systems of record
    - Find and hire new development talent
    - Integrate new Node.js applications with your existing RPG, Java, .Net, and PHP apps
    - Extend your IBM i capabilties to include Watson API, Cloud, and Internet of Things

    Read Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization Now!


  • Profound Logic Solution Guide

    SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation.
    Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects.
    The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the companyare not aligned with the current IT environment.

    Get your copy of this important guide today!


  • 2022 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results

    Fortra2022 marks the eighth edition of the IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, Fortra captures data on how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT and cybersecurity initiatives it supports.

    Over the years, this survey has become a true industry benchmark, revealing to readers the trends that are shaping and driving the market and providing insight into what the future may bring for this technology.

  • Brunswick bowls a perfect 300 with LANSA!

    FortraBrunswick is the leader in bowling products, services, and industry expertise for the development and renovation of new and existing bowling centers and mixed-use recreation facilities across the entertainment industry. However, the lifeblood of Brunswick’s capital equipment business was running on a 15-year-old software application written in Visual Basic 6 (VB6) with a SQL Server back-end. The application was at the end of its life and needed to be replaced.
    With the help of Visual LANSA, they found an easy-to-use, long-term platform that enabled their team to collaborate, innovate, and integrate with existing systems and databases within a single platform.
    Read the case study to learn how they achieved success and increased the speed of development by 30% with Visual LANSA.


  • Progressive Web Apps: Create a Universal Experience Across All Devices

    LANSAProgressive Web Apps allow you to reach anyone, anywhere, and on any device with a single unified codebase. This means that your applications—regardless of browser, device, or platform—instantly become more reliable and consistent. They are the present and future of application development, and more and more businesses are catching on.
    Download this whitepaper and learn:

    • How PWAs support fast application development and streamline DevOps
    • How to give your business a competitive edge using PWAs
    • What makes progressive web apps so versatile, both online and offline



  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • Why Migrate When You Can Modernize?

    LANSABusiness users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.
    In this white paper, you’ll learn how to think of these issues as opportunities rather than problems. We’ll explore motivations to migrate or modernize, their risks and considerations you should be aware of before embarking on a (migration or modernization) project.
    Lastly, we’ll discuss how modernizing IBM i applications with optimized business workflows, integration with other technologies and new mobile and web user interfaces will enable IT – and the business – to experience time-added value and much more.


  • UPDATED: Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Having trouble getting management approval for modernization projects? The problem may be you're not speaking enough "business" to them.

    This Developer Kit provides you study-backed data and a ready-to-use business case template to help get your very next development project approved!

  • What to Do When Your AS/400 Talent Retires

    FortraIT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators is small.

    This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn:

    • Why IBM i skills depletion is a top concern
    • How leading organizations are coping
    • Where automation will make the biggest impact


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Encryption on IBM i Simplified

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDB2 Field Procedures (FieldProcs) were introduced in IBM i 7.1 and have greatly simplified encryption, often without requiring any application changes. Now you can quickly encrypt sensitive data on the IBM i including PII, PCI, PHI data in your physical files and tables.
    Watch this webinar to learn how you can quickly implement encryption on the IBM i. During the webinar, security expert Robin Tatam will show you how to:

    • Use Field Procedures to automate encryption and decryption
    • Restrict and mask field level access by user or group
    • Meet compliance requirements with effective key management and audit trails


  • Lessons Learned from IBM i Cyber Attacks

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDespite the many options IBM has provided to protect your systems and data, many organizations still struggle to apply appropriate security controls.
    In this webinar, you'll get insight into how the criminals accessed these systems, the fallout from these attacks, and how the incidents could have been avoided by following security best practices.

    • Learn which security gaps cyber criminals love most
    • Find out how other IBM i organizations have fallen victim
    • Get the details on policies and processes you can implement to protect your organization, even when staff works from home

    You will learn the steps you can take to avoid the mistakes made in these examples, as well as other inadequate and misconfigured settings that put businesses at risk.



  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    SB PowerTech WC GenericWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

  • Comply in 5! Well, actually UNDER 5 minutes!!

    SB CYBRA PPL 5382

    TRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms.

    Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product.

    Request your trial now!

  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    FortraRobot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    FortraRobot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.