Quantum Eases Backup Pain

New initiative provides details to vendors.

For many time-strapped IT managers and their equally harried staff, the most frustrating problem in storage management is having a failed backup. Running tape backups is a chore that must be done but isnt enjoyable—even when everything goes according to plan.

Given the fact tape failures are far too common experiences—especially as enterprise systems generate exponentially more data thats ever-more critical—the prospect of a failed backup has become even more of a headache for many IT managers.

The most frustrating aspect of failed backups is more than just the event of failure: Its the fact that, often, IT managers dont know exactly why the failure occurred. Usually, all they get is a failure alert in their event log, often followed by a vague message signaling a hardware problem.

Even if they can narrow the problem to a hardware issue, they rarely know if the backup failed because of a bad tape or because the tape drive itself has issues.

Simply put, tape hardware vendors need to interact more with software vendors to make IT managers lives easier. Although many tape drives have diagnostic tools built into them, the information they gather is usually not shared with backup software vendors.

Quantum Corp.s DLTsage initiative aims to help change this by giving IT managers and software vendors access to hardware diagnostic tools designed to analyze tape drives and media.

When eWEEK Labs saw an early demo of DLTsage recently, we were impressed with the potential of this technology to not only help IT managers pinpoint hardware problems but also to keep track of wear and tear on the tapes themselves.

The demo showed that DLTsage was able to harness tape drives to glean important status information on tapes—such as the condition of a tape and how often a tape has been loaded—letting managers know what tapes are getting worn out and which ones have the potential to fail sooner rather than later. It does this by transmitting diagnostic information to servers using Fibre Channel and SCSI.

The DLTsage technology will be available in Quantums tape products, and officials said the company is working on partnerships with hardware and software vendors to make sure that they can leverage the DLTsage information with their own management software to make hardware trouble-shooting less troublesome.

Quantums initiative is the first instance weve seen where a hardware vendor is reaching out to software vendors to make diagnostic software more important. This approach makes so much sense that we expect to see similar moves by other hardware vendors in the future.

Hardware vendors Advanced Digital Information Corp. and Overland Storage Inc. are on board with the Quantum initiative. On the software side, Computer Associates International Inc., CommVault Systems Inc. and Veritas Software Corp. have announced plans to support DLTsage.

Hopefully, well see more tape manufacturers adding improved diagnostics and tape analysis tools to their drives—something that should have been done a while ago to make backup processes more efficient and manageable.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_ baltazar@ziffdavis.com.