Sun has quietly released a new virtual tape library using StorageTek software and Thumper, aka X4500, hybrid server hardware.

Virtual tape libraries appear to be tape libraries to backup software, but operate at disk speed to reduce backup and restore times. They are generally used as a form of cache between servers and actual tape libraries.

Sun has two virtual tape library products: VSM v5 which is for mainframes; and VTL Plus for Windows and Unix/Linux servers. VSM is all Sun software, whereas VTL Plus uses FalconStor VTL software. It runs on a SunFire v40z dual-Opteron server, offering up to 224TB of capacity for mid-sized datacentres with tens of terabytes of data to backup.

The X4500 is a dual-Opteron server packaged with 48 500GB serial ATA (SATA) drives providing a 24TB capacity. It runs Solaris and Sun's new ZFS file system.

In February Sun's then Storage boss, David Yen, said that the X4500 will be used in the future as the base for a virtual tape library running the FalconStor VTL software.

The StorageTek VTL-V (Virtual Tape Library - Value) is this product, a 24TB-capacity virtual tape library that slots in underneath the VTL Plus product. It is a near-turnkey product and intended for small data and/or remote datacentres with no on-site tape drives. There are four 2GB Fibre channel ports and Symantec NetBackUp, Legato Networker, BakBone Net Vault and CA BrightStor are supported with more backup software support coming.

The product will also be developed to include tape caching, which enables automated integration of physical tape libraries in-line behind the VTL-V. There will also be software encryption when a virtual cartridge is moved to physical tape. A future release will enable remote office to enterprise replication for disaster recovery.

Sun documentation states: "Added features to enable use of 4GB Fibre channel speeds, increased capacity with 750GB SATA HDD, management of physical tape and data de-duplication are planned..." The disk upgrade will raise X4500 capacity to 36TB.

FalconStor already has de-duplication software.

According to David Kenyon, a Sun product management director, Sun aims to add a new high-end non-mainframe virtual tape product called VTL-E (enterprise). It will be aimed at large-scale datacentres with hundreds of terabytes of data to backup and which have a lot of tape systems. VTL-E will be scalable, potentially to the 1PB area, have sophisticated tape management software, and feature faster performance than both the VTL-V and VTL+ products. It may be delivered in 2008.

The Sun documentation says that customers will be able to upgrade from VTL-V to VTL+ and on to the VTL-E because the code base will be the same. The VTL-V will be generally available from November 21 this year. The base price will be $59,995 (about £30,000 at standard conversion rates) with VTL software another $25,000 (about £12,500).