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NetApp buys VTL provider Alacritus

Jo Maitland, Senior Executive Editor

Network Appliance Inc. today announced that it will acquire virtual tape library (VTL) and continuous data

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protection (CDP) software-maker Alacritus, for approximately $11 million in an all-cash transaction.

Alacritus, a privately held company based in Pleasanton, Calif., first partnered with NetApp in December 2004 to build an offering based on Alacritus' Securitus software and NetApp's NearStore nearline disk system.

The combined product is used as a virtual library system for backing up NetApp storage as well as Unix and Windows servers. It is certified with backup software from Bakbone Software Inc. Computer Associates Inc., CommVault Systems Inc., EMC Dantz, EMC Legato, IBM and Veritas Software Inc.

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A VTL enables a disk storage system to look exactly like one or more tape libraries to the backup application. The biggest benefit for users is the faster restore times from disk rather than tape.

Arun Taneja, founder and analyst of the Taneja Group, said the deal will help NetApp move into the disk-to-disk backup game beyond just NetApp environments. "The purchase itself is not that important, but the direction statement is strategic," he said.

"Getting beyond NetApp is a key strategy in my business group," said Amit Pandey, vice president and general manager of the data storage management business unit at NetApp.

Peter Gerr, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, points out that NetApp has been successful positioning and selling its NearStore nearline disk product as a way to relieve users' challenges with basic data protection processes like backup and recovery. But implementing a SATA disk array as a backup target often requires users to reconfigure their backup software to back up to disk volumes instead of tape volumes, he said.

"VTL functionality increases the value of nearline disk and can be implemented with minimal disruption to the backup software or the backup/recovery process as the VTL emulates familiar tape devices," Gerr said.

While Alacritus hasn't established itself as a VTL leader in the U.S. market, it has done well in other geographies, specifically Asia-Pacific, Gerr added. "It gives NetApp another easy-to-sell option for its NearStore solution that makes the system inherently more valuable."

Perhaps more interesting in the longer term is Alacritus' Chronospan CDP software that provides any point-in-time copies without the need to explicitly create snapshots at specific times. All writes to primary disk are mirrored to the Chronospan disks and are written sequentially, without having to freeze the application. It enables storage administrators to rollback to any point in time.

This is still a very new concept, and users are wary of it. Henry Cano, VP, network Infrastructure at Abbott Systems Inc., is a Sepaton Inc. VTL user and is checking out the company's CDP software. "I'm not confident in that concept yet, normally you want to duplicate as much as possible to safely copy all the data, you can't eliminate storage altogether, the data has to be stored somewhere," he said.

Meanwhile, Network Appliance is having a busy week. The acquisition comes a day after the company announced a major OEM deal with IBM. Click here for that story.

The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the fourth fiscal quarter of 2005.

Other companies that make VTL products include: ADIC, Diligent Technologies Corp., FalconStor Software Inc., Maxxan Systems Inc., Neartek Inc., Quantum Corp., Sepaton Inc. and Yosemite Technologies Inc.


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