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Disk, tape and the search for the Holy Grail...of backup/restore

Toigo shares how the current posturing in tape backup/restore would go over if transported to medieval times of King Arthur.

In their on-going quest for the Holy Grail, King Arthur and several of his knights approached a rickety rope bridge spanning a great chasm. Suddenly, they were confronted by a Bridgekeeper with the looks of a troll, the powers of a wizard, and the voice of fingernails on a chalkboard.

Bridgekeeper: Who approaches the bridge of death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.

Sir Elliot of LTO: Ask me the questions, Bridgekeeper. I am not afraid. After all, Linear Tape Open is on its way to becoming the leading tape format for middle-tier companies and unseating (in a respectful way, of course, since most library vendors and integrators use both our drives and those of our competitors in their products) the evil (in a marketing sense) DLT-ites of Quantum Corporation.

Bridgekeeper: Very well caveated. What is the preferred solution for backup/restore in a heterogeneous IT environment?

Sir Elliot: LTO tape, of course: the industry's first multi-vendor consortium-based tape product that promises to break the stranglehold of single vendor DLTape and…

Bridgekeeper: Save the commercial, just answer the questions. What is the maximum speed for tape restore?

Sir Elliot: A terabyte per hour is possible with a state of the art library configured with LTO tape drives, which are the best-of-class device for IT managers concerned about vendor lock-in, media supplier diversity, and…

Bridgekeeper: You seem to want to use every answer to add a plug for LTO technology. I can see why vendors interested in using LTO tape drive design are referred to a law office instead of a technology center. I caution you to keep strictly to the answer on your third and final question. Why do you claim interoperability and cross-drive compatibility of tape cartridges when one of your consortium members uses read-write head technologies like RLL, while others do not -- which pretty much guarantees that tapes cannot be exchanged between drives?

Sir Elliot: Uh, um. Well, you see, in any consortium effort there is always a bit of synchronization difficulty as one partner advances technology sooner than others…

Suddenly, there was an explosion and Sir Elliot was ejected into the chasm.

Bridgekeeper: Brave man, brave man. Who will be next to answer my questions three?

Sir Tucci of Hopkinton: I will take the test, evil Bridgekeeper. I am Sir Tucci of Hopkinton, where information lives.

Bridgekeeper: Very well. What is the preferred solution for backup/restore in a complex heterogeneous IT infrastructure?

Sir Tucci: Disk mirroring, without a doubt. Preferably with SRDF, the premiere technology for…

Bridgekeeper: Watch it. Remember your predecessor's fate. What is the advantage of disk-to-disk mirroring?

Sir Tucci: Big iron-class speed in both backup and restore.

Bridgekeeper: What if the customer has heterogeneous storage platforms rather than Symmetrix on both sides of the mirror?

Sir Tucci: Simple. They must upgrade all storage to Symmetrix. While an expensive initial investment, they can recoup the costs quickly in terms of improved storage total cost of ownership, according to analysts we've encouraged to write nice things about our value proposition…

In a pyroclastic moment, Sir Tucci was launched into the rocky gorge. The other knights began to murmur among themselves, each unwilling to answer the difficult backup/restore questions of the Bridgekeeper. Finally, King Arthur himself advanced to face the wizard.

Bridgekeeper: Whoever approaches the bridge of death must first answer my questions three.

King Arthur: It is I, King Arthur of Quantum, lord of the Enhanced Backup Solutions Initiative (EBSI). I will answer your questions, Troll.

Bridgekeeper: Very well then. What is the preferred solution for backup/restore in a complex heterogeneous IT infrastructure?

King Arthur: Heterogeneity suggests that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, Bridgekeeper. A mixture of tape and disk to expedite data movement while minimizing storage media costs is the solution.

Bridgekeeper: What is your interest in advancing EBSI -- are you abandoning tape?

King Arthur: Of course not. Tape and disk approaches are complementary. Only industry infighting has kept this natural complementarity from the consumer's view. Coping with shrinking backup windows and tight recovery timeframes in modern business will require the judicious application of both technologies.

Bridgekeeper: Well spoken, King Arthur. But answer this third question. Why do we need hardware solutions when we have volume virtualization technology to provide on-going data mirroring across a network of resources?

King Arthur: To which virtualization technology do you refer: host-based, in-band appliances, out-of-band servers, or good, old-fashioned, array-based?

Bridgekeeper: Uh, well. What I mean to ask is…

Suddenly, the ground beneath the Bridgekeeper exploded and his twisted body was tossed like so much cabbage into the trench. King Arthur and his knights proceeded across the ramshackle bridge and pressed forward in their quest to find the Holy Grail of Data Storage Management and a solution to the problem of backup/restore.

About the author: Jon William Toigo has authored hundreds of articles on storage and technology and authors the monthly SearchStorage "Toigo's Take on Storage" expert column. He is also a frequent site contributor on the subjects of storage management, disaster recovery and enterprise storage. Toigo has authored a number of storage books, including The holy grail of data storage management.

Additional resources:

Join Jon for his upcoming Storage Decisions 2002 session in Chicago, "DR plans that both you and your CEO can live with"

Read our recent Q&A Interview with Jon Toigo on disk versus tape.

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