HP's May 24 release of a reasonably priced virtual tape library (VTL) marks the latest in a series of HP announcements geared toward making enterprise storage technologies and capabilities available to SMB buyers. With an entry price of just over $6000, the HP StorageWorks Virtual Library System 1002i (VLS1002i) marks the first entry, by a top-tier storage vendor, into this market for SMBs.

VTLs appear to backup applications as tape-drive backup devices but are composed of high-performance, low-cost hard-disk drives. The VTL can be used either as a very fast intermediate backup point for tape drive users or as a dedicated backup solution of its own, with no additional backup of the data stored on the VTL. The VLS1002i, which is targeted at SMBs and branch offices or remote sites that need a high-performance backup solution, can store up to 1.5TB of data (or up to 3TB when compression is used).

The VLS1002i provides additional benefits to branch offices and offsite users because it offers a completely integrated Web-based management interface, which eliminates the need for local IT staff to perform standard management tasks. To accommodate SMBs' IT support constraints, HP focused on making the VLS1002i easy to use and set up, in part by using an industry-standard Adaptec RAID card and supporting iSCSI connectivity in the device.

HP also announced the HP StorageWorks MSL4048 Tape Library, which can store up to 19.2TB of data in a 4U rack-mount space. Like the VLS1002i, the MSL4048 can be completely managed through a built-in Web interface, making it suitable as an SMB's primary backup device or for branch offices and remote offices.

According to the May 24 announcement, all HP tape drives and tape autoloaders will ship with a copy of the HP StorageWorks Data Protector Express Single Server Edition software (which HP/Compaq customers can also download at no additional cost for use on new or existing HP servers). The bundling of Data Protector Express is important because the software is integrated with the HP StorageWorks One-Button Disaster Recovery utility provided with the HP tape-drive devices. This technology provides an easy-to-use method to restore the OS, applications, and data stored on a protected server. A user need only push a single button, then follow the onscreen instructions to walk through the restoration process. HP claims that this process can restore an entire server back to operation in less than one hour.

HP is continuing to bring innovative technologies not only to its enterprise customers but also to SMBs. Additionally, products that work well for SMBs work equally well, if not better, for departments and groups within larger enterprises. By focusing on the needs of its SMB customers, HP also finds itself in a position to improve its offerings to enterprise customers.