Briefing Note: Removing Tape Pain with B&L Associates Vertices and VaultLedger

Recently I wrote an article “Even if Disk were Free You’d Still Want Tape” which explained the advantages of using tape for cold backup storage and active archive storage. The economics behind tape are simply too compelling to ignore. The downside to tape, and one of the true advantages disk has over it, is the difficulty in managing the tape system. Tape management is a real pain and overcoming that pain is critical for tape to continue to be a viable technology in the enterprise. One of the ways to deal with the tape management problem is to implement a tape management software solution like Vertices or VaultLedger from B&L Associates. These solutions promise to automate tape management and take away much of that pain.

What Causes Tape Pain?

As we discussed in that prior article, most of the perceptions about tape as a backup and archive storage media that have accumulated over time are now incorrect. When a tape library is properly configured and implemented into the backup/archive design it should be more reliable than the hard disk systems, and should perform fast enough to meet the recovery expectations of secondary backup and active archive.

The big challenge with tape is the handling of the media, which is something that we don’t face with disk backup and archive appliances. There is no ejectable media in these systems. Ironically, tape technology’s biggest advantage, replaceable media, becomes its biggest weakness. Tape has to be tracked so that IT personnel know when to move data off-site, when to bring it back from off-site, when all the data on a tape has been expired and when the tape media itself should be replaced because it has reached end of life. Some data centers may even need to know exactly what data is on which tapes.

Tracking all of the above information manually is almost impossible, and maybe inhumane. This is where products like B&L’s Vertices and VaultLedger come in. They can directly interface with your backup application to make sure that the right tapes are going to and coming from your tape vault. These solutions can also report on data expiration per tape as well as tape life remaining on each cartridge. With the automation module and their wireless scanner, either of the products can automatically log and update the main tape management system as to exact tape locations and movements.

Vertices or VaultLedger?

The two solutions share plenty of functionality, including the ability to manage media in both the vault and the data center. They support multiple tape input options including bar-code scanning and can import tape information from the backup application. They also both support reconciliation and can transmit tape pickup and drop off lists to your vaulting vendor. Finally, both solutions provide a complete audit trail of tape movement.

The core difference between the two is how each supports your tape movement strategy. If you are using a more simple calendar tape movement strategy and fixed role based security then VaultLedger is for you. If you need a more robust policy based tape movement strategy, and a more detailed understanding of what is on each piece of media and customized domain security, then Vertices is a better choice.

Vertices also includes a module for tracking hard drive decommissioning and destruction. With the module, you can track hard drives from the moment they go offline until the time they are destroyed through a predetermined workflow. This enables you to validate hard drive destruction, upload CODs (certificates of destruction) to the event, verify chain of custody, and make sure hard drives that contain sensitive data are indeed destroyed.

StorageSwiss Take

As data centers increase or re-introduce the use of tape for cold backups and archives, the common complaint is the difficulty in managing all of the tape media. Unless you are going to create a touch-less tape environment, you need some way to control the movement of tape as well as managing tape life cycle. Products like VaultLedger and Vertices remove much of the headache of manually managing tapes. For organizations that are returning to tape or simply increasing their tape workload, B&L solutions deserve strong consideration.

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Twelve years ago George Crump founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal; to educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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