The Inner Workings of a VTL Gateway Appliance: Interview with BridgeSTOR CEO John Matze, Part II

NAS gateway appliances that connect to backend public storage clouds are still not a “dime a dozen” but they are definitely more prevalent than they were even a few years ago. However a new class of gateway appliances that provides a virtual tape library (VTL) is now available from BridgeSTOR. In this second part of my interview series with BridgeSTOR’s CEO John Matze, we discuss the inner workings of its VTL interface that it is making available this month on its cloud gateway appliance.
Jerome: How do the BridgeSTOR gateway appliances with their respective NAS file share and VTL interfaces work?
John: BridgeSTOR is going to ship appliances in two phases. The first (and which is already shipping) is the BridgeSTOR Coronado which is a NAS appliance with backend cloud connectivity. It is an F drive and you just copy data to it and it then puts the data on the cloud storage solutions (Amazon S3 and others.)
BridgeSTOR is working with a lot of the low end NAS guys right now as well as higher end ones to embed this solution right into their current shipping NAS products. You could then have a local drive with local storage that has some data on and that is under one share. Then you would have another share that could be called S3. Whatever you copy into that share, you take advantage of the local disk cache though everything is eventually stored on Amazon.
Right now I’m having conversations with one NAS provider so it could literally have this functionality on every NAS box that it ships. Once it is embedded, then it is just a matter of this NAS provider signing organizations up for the cloud storage service they want to use. Pretty brain-dead simple.
The tape interface is for the cloud tape library. That is a full virtual tape library (VTL) interface for a 12 slot library, with a virtual LTO tape in it. The back end it talks to BridgeSTOR’s cloud file system. It takes the tape images and sends them up into the cloud leaving metadata behind on the different tapes.
Organizations perform this task using what I call a tape shelf.  This is nothing more than a Windows file share. An organization can see all the tapes sitting up in the cloud by their barcode number. Then if you want to get rid of a tape in the cloud, you just delete the barcode and it’s gone.
We are in particular making this work with Amazon Glacier because it is only a penny a gigabyte (GB). If you want to restore a tape, you go into the BridgeSTOR GUI and instruct it to move a barcode off of whatever virtual shelf it is on into slot 3. In the background, the BridgeSTOR appliance will go up to Amazon (or whoever) and get this virtual tape.
At this point slot 3 no longer shows up to the backup software as “available” as it is marked as “busy” since this virtual tape is going in there since our GUI keeps track of which slots are “available” and “busy.” When this tape shows up (i.e. – is retrieved from the public storage cloud provider,) all of a sudden slot 3 will show the barcode label. Then the backup software will pull the tape, move it back into the local VTL repository and restore either the individual file or the whole tape.
The real cool thing about bringing an individual file back is that you do not have to bring the whole tape down from Amazon because of the unique way BridgeSTOR stores the tape in the cloud. If you, say, go to the 5th file mark and then skip X number of sectors, BridgeSTOR can mathematically figure out where that is at in the image. Then we only retrieve the data that is required for that restore. Of course, the whole idea with Amazon is organizations are putting data in the cloud and hoping they will never need them again.
In part 1 of this interview series, we take a look at some of the different gateways solutions available for accessing public storage clouds and how they differ.

In part 3 of this interview series, we discuss the business value that a public storage gateway appliance with a VTL offers and how it affords organizations the opportunity to move their tape museums into the cloud.

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