Symantec today announced that it has released a native application programming interface (API) for the next version of NetBackup - its enterprise-class backup software - that will allow it to manage leading virtual tape libraries (VTL) and other secondary storage devices, giving users a single view of their tiered backup environment.

At its most basic, Symantec's OpenStorage API - a pre-existing interface - allows VTLs to integrate natively with NetBackup, which replaces management utilities offered by secondary storage disk-array vendors.

"The real goal is to have everything managed through NetBackup," said Matt Kixmoeller, senior director of product management for NetBackup.

While storage vendors are beginning their development work now with the API, it will be included in Version 6.5 of NetBackup, due out in the second quarter of 2007. Vendors that have so far signed up to integrate their secondary disk storage systems with NetBackup's new API include EMC, Network Appliance, Copan Systems, Sun Microsystems, FalconStor Software, Data Domain, Sepaton and Diligent Technologies.

VTLs emulate physical tapes to backup servers, storing data to more efficient and nimble disk arrays in order to offload backup data quickly. That data can then be migrated to tapes offline in a process that is nondisruptive to a businesses operations.

Lauren Whitehouse, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group believes Symantec, with its industry-leading backup software, is attempting to usurp the tape emulation functionality offered in VTLs with its own flavor of the technology.

"It's self-serving on some levels, but it would probably better for the cusotmer in the long run - one standard," she said. "I don't know that a lot of the VTL vendors are going to be particularly happy."

Participating vendors pay a fee to use the OpenStorage API, but Symantec said it will be up to those vendors as to whether users will absorb any additional cost for VTLs and other storage devices using the API. Symantec said it will not charge users for the added feature in NetBackup 6.5.

Kixmoeller said NetBackup 6.5 will now offer advanced features for participating VTLs and other secondary storage arrays, such as Copan's massive array of idle disks, or MAID. Those features include setting storage life-cycle policies, media server capacity management, load balancing, shared disk between multiple media servers, duplication or replication, and data de-duplication.

Whitehouse said that in some ways Symantec has been struggling with gaps in the way its backup products deal with disk. "They don't treat disk very efficiently," she said. "They're trying to figure out a way to be the big dog."

Still missing from NetBackup, for example, is the ability to catalogue copies of virtual tapes on disk arrays once when they have been migrated to a physical tape through some VTLs, meaning NetBackup doesn't know that copy of data exists.

"Just because we're adding this API doesn't mean we're not going to continue to enhance virtual tape as well. That particular issue we're also working to resolve in the next release of NetBackup with virtual tape," Kixmoeller said.