How to teach your backup apps talk tape with StarWind Tape Redirector

Introduction

Tapes are a really good solution to store your backups. Durable longevity, sufficient storage capacity, and affordable price. These are the benefits that explain why tapes are here to stay. Sure, now that we have HDDs that can compete with them or cloud storage, such as Backblaze B2, AWS Glacier or Azure Archival that is getting less and less expensive, tapes may be not the #1 option for backup. But, lots of companies still have to adhere to the established data retention and archival policies that clearly say that you must offload your backups to tapes. And that’s another reason why tape is alive.

Tapes lack flexibility

So far so great, but what should you do if you have several servers in your datacenter and you should backup data from each of those to tape? Well, you have two options, actually. Carry around the tape library and connect it to the server every time you need to backup its data. Not too convenient right? Alternatively, you can buy several tape libraries but you’ll have to give away your credit card. The problem also is that the backup software running inside virtual machines cannot talk to tape hardware because guest VMs don’t have direct access to tape drives and tape autoloaders.

Idea! Let’s create a bridge between backup servers and tapes!

What we need is a software that will run on a server with the attached tape drive and create an iSCSI “gateway” to a tape library. A great example of such software is StarWind Tape Redirector. Basically, it installs on a server and allows any backup application located on a remote server to transfer the data to the tapes over LAN or WAN using SCSI over TCP (iSCSI) protocol. All the distance restrictions are eliminated. You don’t need to mess around with tape libraries – you have your tape library connected to server and any remote server can connect to it over any IP network using iSCSI. Result? You keep your backup infrastructure unchanged and get things done.

Working with StarWind Tape Redirector

Less words, more action. StarWind Tape Redirector is a free tool, which is great, and is quite simple and straightforward to work with. I’ll further describe the steps required to deploy the tool. Note that the Tape Redirector is not a separate tool, but a part of free StarWind VSAN. So you’ll need to deploy StarWind VSAN service on your servers and install StarWind Management Console somewhere on your workstation.

You should have received the license key in the email.

After that, launch the Management Console.

Once you’ve added the StarWind servers, click Add device (advanced) and select Tape Device.

Choose Physical Tape Auto-Loader/Changer.

Afterwards, select the Tape Auto-Loader/Changer Device you want to export and select Access Mode for it.

OK, choose the Tape Drive you want to export and the Access Mode.

If you need, you can enter the Target Alias. Don’t miss the “Allow multiple concurrent iSCSI Connections” box.

Finally, we can click Create.

We can now see the newly created device and target in the StarWind Management Console.

Good, now that we have a device and target in place, let’s connect to a remote device using iSCSI Initiator. To do this, go to the Microsoft iSCSI Software Initiator or any other iSCSI initiators on the server where you want to connect the Tape Library. Open the Discovery tab.

Now, click the Discover Portal button. Type in the appropriate IP address or DNS name and port number (default is 3260) of the StarWind host where the Tape Redirector has been configured.

Open the Targets tab and select the created target. In case no targets are listed, click the Refresh button. Press Connect.

You’ll see the “Connect to Target” window. You may uncheck the option “Add this connection to the list of Favorite Targets” if you don’t want the system to automatically restore the connection every time the computer restarts. Click OK.

So the connection process has passed successfully, and the iSCSI device is shown as Connected.

That’s it! The Tape and Medium Changer devices are displayed as local devices. You should install drivers for Unknown Medium Changer device to see it properly in Device Manager (depends on your tape/medium changer vendor).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feel free to backup your data to your tape library.

In case you need a more detailed guide on how to configure StarWind Tape Redirector, you can find it at the following link: https://www.starwindsoftware.com/resource-library/starwind-virtual-san-starwind-tape-redirector

Conclusion

StarWind Tape Redirector allows you to make your backup routines much more simple and convenient. First of all, you don’t need to violate your established backup policies or change the existing backup infrastructure. Instead of deploying multiple tape libraries, you install the software on the server with tape library connected, and all other nodes on the network with backup apps can easily access the tape library.

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