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EMC buys Bus-Tech, challenges IBM in mainframe backup

Dave Raffo
EMC Corp. bought its mainframe virtual tape library (VTL) partner Bus-Tech

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Inc. Wednesday as part of an effort to woo mainframe backup users away from tape while competing with IBM Corp. in that market.

EMC has resold Bus-Tech VTL products since 2004, and has included Bus-Tech's virtual tape controller in EMC Disk Library for mainframe (DLm) platform under an OEM deal since 2008. Bus-Tech's controller provides FICON capability for the EMC disk library. EMC did not disclose financial terms of the acquisition, which has already closed.

Bus-Tech virtual tape engines (VTEs) were part of the Deduplication Storage Expansion for the EMC DLm 960 launched in July. That product also includes EMC's Celerra NS-960 storage and EMC Data Domain DD880 backup targets with data deduplication. Deduplication lets customers effectively perform asynchronous replication between DLm systems.

EMC also sells its Disk Library 5000 series of VTLs for open systems, although most of its backup disk hardware sales come from Data Domain deduplication targets with network-attached storage (NAS) interfaces.

EMC executives said the Bus-Tech acquisition will make them an aggressive player in the mainframe tape and storage market that IDC forecasts will hit $2.5 billion from 2010 through 2014.

"We don't have a big position in that market today," said Shane Jackson, direct of product marketing for EMC's Backup Recovery Systems division.

EMC executives said owning Bus-Tech rather than selling its products through an OEM deal gives EMC greater control over support and the technology roadmap.

"IBM is the main competitor in this market, and IBM owns its entire stack," said Rod Matthews, EMC's director of business development for BRS. "Now we own our entire stack."

In February, IBM launched the IBM System Storage TS7680 ProtecTIER Deduplication Gateway for System z, bringing its deduplication software to a mainframe VTL. The other major competitor in the market, Oracle, last week upgraded its StorageTek Virtual Storage Manager (VSM) mainframe VTL. But unlike EMC and IBM, Oracle doesn't support deduplication for its mainframe VTL.

Storage analysts see the acquisition as a sign of EMC's increasing commitment to compete for mainframe backup customers.

"This makes a statement that EMC is aggressively going after Oracle/Sun and IBM for the mainframe tape installed base," said Robert Amatruda, IDC research director for data protection and recovery. "It puts EMC in position to really offer a solution around mainframe tape replacement."

Deduplication and mainframe backup

Silverton Consulting president Ray Lucchesi agreed about EMC making a push for mainframe backup shops, but he and Amatruda disagree on the role of deduplication plays in the mainframe backup market.

"EMC's putting a lot of effort into mainframe dedupe," Lucchesi said. "Some information on mainframes doesn't dedupe well, but if you're running a full backup, dedupe on the mainframe works efficiently."

Amatruda said even customers doing full backups on mainframe won't see the benefits from dedupe that open systems get. "In the mainframe world, deduplication doesn't work tremendously well," he said. "The way mainframe operating systems write data to disk is compact and efficient as it is. And a lot of mainframe customers use IBM Tivoli Storage Manager [TSM] that does incremental-forever and makes full backups not that likely."

Bus-Tech also has a reseller deal with Hitachi Data Systems and interoperability partnerships with EMC competitors Compellent, FalconStor Software, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM, NetApp, Quantum Corp. and Sepaton Inc. Matthews said no decision has been made about the future of those relationships.


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