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Configure HPE StoreOnce VTL for Data Protection

Here we are with a quick new article presenting the steps to create and configure HPE StoreOnce VTL. This is an emulated Virtual Tape Library sitting on the HPE StoreOnce volumes. There are many advantages we can benefit from this configuration. Probably the most common one is the ability to consolidate the legacy model on longer retention for Backups.

In this case the emulation offers a convenient replacement or integration with an existing ecosystem. From a security perspective the Backup to Tape is still a valid and extra measure which guarantees the “Air-Gapped” scenarios. These are particularly useful against ransomware attacks as well.

The emulation in this case offers the most important steps when it comes down to the daily operations and management of the standard components including Tape Libraries, Tape Drives, Cartridges and a lot more. Of course when connecting to the Backup Server it is possible to manage the other aspects like the management of Media Pools, Media Sets, the retention, the encryption and a lot more.

This article quickly shows the steps on how to:

  • Install the Tape Drivers
  • Create an HPE StoreOnce VTL
  • Connect to an HPE StoreOnce VTL
  • Present a VTL to a Veeam Backup Server

In a nutshell: the Tape Drivers will help the Windows Server to manage the new device types. Such devices are presented through iSCSI on the same Windows Server. The same server is acting though as iSCSI initiator. On the other end we have HPE StoreOnce which emulates the VTL Library along with the drives or cartridges. This end serves is iSCSI target.

The great news about using HPE StoreOnce in this case is to take advantage of extra features like de-duplication, encryption or even replication to other StoreOnce appliances and more.

Now we are ready to start!

Tape drivers for HPE StoreOnce VTL

As a first step part of the prerequisites we’ll install the HPE Tape Drivers for Windows. In this article I’m using a Windows Server as a Tape Server. In reality from the HPE Support website it is possible to download also drivers for other operating systems. At the time of writing the latest version for Windows server are version released on the 4th of December 2017.

Let’s run the executable and select all drivers and click install. The process is very quick and does not require a reboot of the Server.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Tape Drivers install

Let’s make sure the installation is successful and click ok to complete the installation. This step helps the Windows Server to automatically install and use the new Tape Devices (Drives and Media) emulated by HPE StoreOnce.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Tape Drivers complete

Next requirement we need on the machine we’ll use as a Tape Server is to either configure Fibre Channel (FC) or iSCSI to mount the Virtual Tape Libraries sitting on the HPE StoreOnce. For this article we’ll use the iSCSI protocol as a a lot easier to configure. Most of all this iSCSI initiator client is built-in the latest versions of Windows Server. Windows Server 2012 R2 in this instance. We’ll start the iSCSI service either from the Start button and typing “iSCSI” or browsing the Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools > iSCSI initiator.

Once started the Microsoft iSCSI initiator service will run in the background. Of course this can be controlled as well from the Windows Services management console. To the question how much RAM Memory this service is consuming my rule of thumb is roughly 1 GB of RAM per TB of data. Naturally the network connectivity plays a big role as well. Having a specific network to route the Data traffic is highly preferable.

HPE StoreOnce VTL iSCSI service

As soon as we get access to the iSCSI Initiator Properties from the last tab in the Configuration we take a copy of the iSCSI initiator name. We’ll need this one to complete the configuration of the HPE Virtual Tape Library on the StoreOnce. Should we want to secure the traffic and use a challenge protocol to access the iSCSI resource (VTL in our case) we can do so from here. It is very important to mirror the same settings from the VTL configuration on the iSCSI target.

HPE StoreOnce VTL iSCSI initiator properties

At this point we are ready to create the VTL library on the HPE StoreOnce.

Create HPE StoreOnce VTL Library

From the Navigator panel let’s browse the VTL section to initially configure the global behaviour for Fibre Channel and iSCSI settings. For the latter we have the option to enable the Auto-Creation. Essentially Cartridges will be automatically provisioned upon VTL library creation. We can indeed control this behaviour and manage the cartridges independently.

From the Library sub-menu let’s hit on Create.

HPE StoreOnce VTL configuration

First tab is Device details. From this tab we define the library name, the Media Changer Port (iSCSI in our example) and available features depending on license like De-duplication and encryption. Interestingly we can also define the amount of data that should be written before or after the de-dupe operations.

HPE StoreOnce VTL new Library

In the emulation section we define the Library to emulate. HPE StoreOnce offers the following:

  • D2DBS Generic
  • MSL G3 Series
  • EML Series
  • ESL Series
  • IBM-TS3500

Depending on this selection it will dictate the rest of the options including the number of Cartridges Slots, Drives and Cartridges size. In this example 8 media tapes will be created with 1 “mechanical” drive. Each tape is 10GB totalling 80GB of raw space.

If desired we can also edit the Barcode settings.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Emulation

In the iSCSI section we’ll provide information as the iSCSI initiator name. Should we want to challenge the authentication method when accessing these tapes for increased security we can define the additional settings here. Of course the iSCSI initiators need to match the same configurations.

HPE StoreOnce VTL iSCSI information

Finally in the Library usage section we can also specify the purpose of the creation for such Libraries. This is optional and helps with statistics and more information in the logs.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Libary usage

As soon as we hit on create we can see a new VTL Library available along with the main settings. In this case there are also more tabs showing the pertinent information as per our settings.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Library

Connect to HPE StoreOnce VTL

Now that the VTL Library is created is time to present this one to the Tape Server. This is the server where we are running our iSCSI initiator. At this point we are ready to connect to the intended libraries. Let’s provide the IP Address of the HPE StoreOnce VSA.

HPE StoreOnce VTL iSCSI initiator

We hit Refresh and new iSCSI targets are showing. Let’s select them and click on Connect. This should also automatically add these Targets to the list of favourites ones.

HPE StoreOnce VTL iSCSI targets

As soon as we connect to the iSCSI targets we see them appearing in the windows Device Manager. As per picture below the Tape Server can see the Tape “mechanical” drive and the Library. Let’s repeat this operation for all the remaining Cartridges slots that have been created.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Device Manager

Present HPE StoreOnce VTL to Veeam Backup Server

We are now ready for the final step of this article: configure a Tape Server for Backup Application. In this example we’ll use the Veeam Backup Server.

From the left panel in the Tape Infrastructure view let’s hit on Add Tape Server.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam Tape Server

A new wizard is starting. This task will run in two steps. First is to add this server in the list of Managed Servers. Second to install the Tape Proxy component. Let’s start with the first step and specify the name of the Server running the iSCSI initiator.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam add server

Let’s select a user with local admin rights on this particular server.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam add server credentials

The review phase identifies the “Veeam Transport” module to be installed.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam add server review

The screenshot shows the quick installation process.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam add server settings

And a summary of the installation progress. We are now ready with the next step about installing the Veeam “Tape Proxy” module.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam add Server

From the drop-down let’s select the intended server.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam Server

Should we want to use a different network to route this traffic we can do this from here selecting preferred networks also adding encryption and throttling when required.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam traffic

In the review we can now see the components required: Veeam Transport and Veeam Tape Proxy.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam review

In this screenshot the quick installation steps for the Veeam Tape Proxy component.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam install

And a final summary showing the status of the installation.

HPE StoreOnce VTL Veeam Summary

We are now ready to create Backup to Tapes and File to Tapes Jobs in Veeam. VTLs are an excellent compromise and way to go to coexist with an existing Backup policy which leverages physical Tapes. It is not only that. VTLs as a such can sit on any source Storage available. Making this choice a viable solution also for existing hardware available. And there’s more! Physical Tapes and VTLs are among the most effective methods to achieve the 3-2-1 rule in the Data Protection industry along with effective protection against ransomware.

Last but not least there are also other offerings in the market leveraging this technology. A few names include StarWind Software and AWS. Both offer the option to store long term data in VTL on premise, offsite and even in the cloud with S3, Glacier and other offerings as well.

We’ll cover more about the setup in dedicated articles!

Definitely a new configuration to play with in our home lab! Looking forward to comments and feedback.

About the author

Michele Domanico

Passionate about Virtualization, Storage, Data Availability and Software Defined Data Center technologies. The aim of Domalab.com is sharing with the Community the knowledge and experience gained with customers, industry leaders and like minded peers. Always open to constructive feedback and new challenges.

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