Spectra Logic introduces Vail, with greater company focus on data management

Spectra Logic introduces Vail, with greater company focus on data management

Chris EvansCloud Storage, Data Management, Data Mobility, Data-Centric Architecture, Enterprise, Spectra Logic

In an ongoing transformation towards a data-centric portfolio, Spectra Logic recently announced Vail, a new data management solution for cloud and on-premises data.  Does Vail highlight a minor pivot and reinvention or the seeds of an ongoing transformation?


Spectra Logic Corporation is an interesting company.  With more than forty years in the storage business, Spectra has cornered the market in automated tape libraries, also known as ATLs.  Despite the rumours of the death of magnetic tape, the technology continues to have a secure long-term future but isn’t the growth market that will keep a company like Spectra Logic in business.


In recent years the company has expanded its portfolio of offerings into scale-out NAS and object storage with BlackPearl.  The BlackPearl solutions are probably unique in offering an S3 front-end to data stored on tape media.  Some of the challenges this overlay delivers are implemented with additional bespoke S3 primitives, essentially expanding the S3 command set to reduce the impact of transforming random to sequential access. 

In 2019, Spectra introduced StorCycle, a data lifecycle management tool that helps customers place data on the right tier of storage based on usage requirements.  With the introduction of Vail, this management capability moves a step further by delivering a single, unified object storage platform spanning the public cloud and on-premises.

Data Mobility

We’ve been discussing data mobility and the goal of a unified storage layer for quite some time.  This post (here) from 2016 outlines some initial issues and thinking, while this one (here) looks at the challenges involved in overcoming the data inertia problem.   


Spectra Logic Vail is a new solution that looks to resolve the data mobility issues for object storage in a multi-cloud environment.  We know that moving data in and out of public clouds can be an expensive business; data ingress is free, but egress is generally chargeable across the industry.  The “Hotel California” tax on moving data out of a public cloud is set at just the right level that dissuades businesses from wholesale migrations from one solution to another.  When we add in the time factor – data can only be moved at a certain speed – we see that increasing data volumes result in increased inertia, making mass data movements less desirable.


The answer to the inertia challenge is to balance the need to have data “apparently” visible in multiple locations while only moving the physical content when absolutely necessary.  This is what Vail achieves through a process that splits metadata from data.

Vail Architecture

Both object and file storage platforms keep information that describes the content, so-called metadata.  At a basic level, metadata includes create/update times, owner, access permissions (ACLs) and location hierarchy.  Most object stores have extensible metadata, enabling complex information to be stored, including abstract key/value pairs.  Metadata could be used, for example, to add extra workflow information or details about an application accessing the data.

Vail provides the capability to visualise data across both on-premises and cloud locations while ensuring data access integrity is maintained.  Customers can use rules-based workflows to ensure data is moved between locations on-demand or to pre-empt expected processing.  Spectra quotes existing customers that, for example, need to ensure that broadcast media content is made available automatically to all news station affiliates once the content has been ingested and processed.


Workflow is a crucial aspect in the efficient placement of content that meets the needs of users.  There’s never a situation where every piece of data must be made available in every location.  Instead, predictable application workflows provide an equally predictable flow of data between physical locations.  Vail offers tools to automate and manage this process.

Attack Hardened

Another feature that workflow enables is the ability to put in place data protection capabilities to mitigate against ransomware and other external threats.  Spectra Logic now talks about its entire portfolio of products moving to an attack hardened footing – something that’s easier to achieve with automated workflow tools. 

The Architect’s View™

If we want to deliver a genuinely practical multi-cloud future, then data mobility is essential.  The laws of physics prevent us from making data truly available in every conceivable location at the same time.  Instead, we need tools and techniques to create the illusion of global availability.  We deliver this compromise using clever techniques to move data ahead of time or on-demand.  To quote our good friend Greg Knieriemen, data should be “in the right place, at the right time, for the right cost”.  Vail is helping customers deliver on that mantra and perhaps evolving itself closer towards a data management company. 

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