In a move considered highly unusual in the competitive world of storage, virtual tape software vendor Neartek Inc. has pulled its successful Virtual Storage Engine product from the marketplace to fully re-engineer it with an open systems focus.
After a nine-month re-engineering process, the Westborough, Mass.-based company has reintroduced the product, this time based on Linux and designed specifically for open systems environments, moving it away from the Windows platform and a focus on mainframe environments.
Company executives chose to fully re-orient the product for several reasons, including the products complex implementation, said Lauren Whitehouse, Nearteks vice president of marketing.
“Our solution was difficult to implement because we were running on a Windows platform. We had to leverage Microsoft Cluster, for example, to have a high availability solution, and with the new version, we dont,” she said.
Another reason for the about-face was the products inability to work in an open systems environment when customers demanded it.
“We took the mainframe paradigm of virtual tape and tried to ram it into the open systems environment, and the complexity had to do with data policy management and automatic migration between tiers of storage, which the open systems market didnt feel ready for. This is more streamlined and very straightforward,” she said.
The resulting solution, dubbed VSE (Virtual Storage Engine) Version 3.0, is a fully reworked version of the companys software-based virtual tape library and data management solution.
The new version takes VTL (virtual tape library) technology a step further than most vendors by using hardware-based compression, which, unlike software-based compression, doesnt slow the performance down to that of a physical tape drive.
Of the other VTL vendors, only Quantum Corp. offers hardware compression today.
“What they are doing with hardware compression is very smart and puts them ahead of the curve,” said Dianne McAdam, senior analyst and partner at Data Mobility Group of Nashua, N.H.
“Hardware compression is much more efficient and takes up less processing power, compared to compressing the data using software, where you can take a 30 to 50 percent hit.”
VSE version 3.0 also provides disaster recovery and backup consolidation, which can send a backup to a remote site using readily available, low-cost IP networks.
“Were opening up multiple channels on an IP network and sending chunks of data to a secondary site potentially out of order, and reassembling then at the other end,” Whitehouse said. Once there, the data can be stored on disk or physical media, she said.
The re-engineered VSE also provides physical tape creation with 100 percent media catalog consistency, using an “on-board” media server to eliminate potential burden to backup servers during the migration process, Whitehouse said.
And although Neartek doesnt encrypt its product in-house, the solution is fully integrated with third-party solutions such that an encryption appliance from a company like Decru Inc. or NeoScale Systems Inc. fits in the path between the virtual tape and physical tape library, with the data designated for the physical tape library being compressed and encrypted.
As for Nearteks approach to re-engineering its product, McAdam said that although unusual, its commendable.
And by taking a bold stand and imbuing its reworked product with state-of-the-art capabilities like hardware-based compression and encryption, Neartek is doing what it has to do to remain competitive with its competition, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co., Quantum, Sepaton Inc. and Diligent Technologies Corp., she said.
For Neartek, the next step is re-introducing mainframe and midrange connectivity into the new, open systems-based solution.
That connectivity will be available in the next version of the product, due in early 2006.