InfoWorld review: Data deduplication appliances

Data deduplication appliances from FalconStor, NetApp, and Spectra Logic provide excellent data reduction for production storage, disk-based backups, and virtual tape

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Spectra Logic nTier v80 and nTier vX
The nTier family of deduplication appliances from Spectra Logic has a slightly different focus than FalconStor and NetApp. Their target market is IT shops that still primarily use tape and tape libraries for backup. The nTier line of appliances are VTL chassis that look like tape drives to the outside world and allow for the easy addition of deduplication during the backup process. The appliances are highly scalable and modular, allowing for in-place upgrades and a long life span. Making use of FalconStor's deduplication engine, the Spectra Logic appliance does a very good job of reducing the overall size of data backup.

To see Spectra Logic's solution in action, I received the nTier v80 and nTier vX VTL deduplication appliances. The nTier v80 is a 3U rack mount appliance that has a storage capacity of 8TB to 16TB (RAID 6) using SATA drives. The nTier vX is a massive 4U chassis nearly twice as deep as a standard rack mount server. Its storage capacity runs from 10TB to 60TB (RAID 6), upgradable in 10TB increments. Both chassis come with SCSI, Fibre Channel, and iSCSI (Gigabit Ethernet) interfaces for host connectivity and dual Intel Xeon multicore CPUs. Redundant power supplies and lots of fans round out the hardware.

The key to the Spectra Logic solution is its close ties to existing tape backup systems. Each VTL dedupe appliance can emulate a wide range of physical tape drives and libraries. In my lab, I chose the IBM Ultrium TD-3 (LTO3) format and defined 21 virtual tapes for six virtual tape drives. Spectra Logic supports eight different types of tape drives and ten different types of tape drive libraries.

As with FalconStor, I used iSCSI to connect my Windows Server 2008 server to the nTier v80 and Symantec Backup Exec 2010 to handle backup chores. The nTier vX was set up as a replication partner to the nTier v80, with deduplication taking place on the nTier v80 as soon as the backup completed and replication running at midnight. Both appliances worked flawlessly during my tests, with the nTier v80's VTL system "swapping out" tapes exactly as directed.

Spectra Logic licenses both the deduplication engine as well as part of the FDS management console in its nTier appliances. Here we see the VTL definition and an at-a-glance view of storage system usage.
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