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Tiger offers lightweight file access for hybrid cloud

Roar data, anyone? Tiger offers local access to cloud data, with only parts of the file being worked on downloaded and file locking in cloud buckets to ensure integrity

Complete reinvention of cloud storage for client machines is the aim of Tiger Technology. Rather than synchronise a file on PC with its cloud copy – as with Box, iCloud, Dropbox, and the like – Tiger’s idea is to just have a symbolic link on the local machine. That way, those collaborating on large files don’t have to wait for the document to sync and download.

“We connect any local directory to any cloud provider,” Tiger Technology founder Alexander Lefterov told sister site LeMagIT during the recent IT Press Tour event. “Then all files stored in the cloud can be seen in your local folder as if they were stored locally, though they are not really there. It’s just a symbolic link that doesn’t consume local capacity.

“The benefit is that all your data in the cloud is accessible to traditional applications that were designed to open and to back up their documents on hard disk.”

Tiger Technology originated in Bulgaria. It offers software-defined products that centre on file system-related functionality. It offers Tiger Store, which layers a single file systems across multiple storage and clients; Tiger Bridge, for hybrid cloud and cloud workloads; Tiger Pool, to combine multiple storage volumes into one pool; and a number of industry-specific solutions such as for media and entertainment, surveillance, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

Only what’s in use – right now – on local disk

“Say you have to edit a high-res video on your PC that’s shared between your team via the cloud,” said Lefterov. “Ordinarily, you’d have to download the whole thing, which can be slow, occupies disk space and can result in multiplication of concurrent versions. With our system, software like Adobe Premiere reads the video directly from the cloud and all edits are immediately recorded in the cloud.”

“Our offer aims at bringing simplicity in a context where enterprises must migrate to cloud working but are filled with dread about how that will disturb collaborative work”
Alexander Lefterov, Tiger Technology

It could be a concern that the system adds latency every time it accesses parts of the video due to communication between the PC and the cloud service, which is likely to be slower than it would be to local disk. Tiger’s founder gives assurances that this is not the case.

“In reality, you work on your local disk, at the speed of your local disk. Our system downloads data from the cloud, but only that which you are currently reading, writing or editing. The whole file isn’t downloaded, and that’s in contrast to the usual file sync services.”

User settings can dictate the size of data held locally, with the duration of local storage also set according to policies. The software puts a lock on buckets in the cloud that contain blocks that are in use, so that other collaborators can’t modify the same segments of a file simultaneously. 

Hybrid cloud without the migration project

Lefterov concedes Tiger reveals its main benefits in working with files so large that downloading the entire thing would be prohibitive. But that’s not the main advantage touted by the company, which focuses on ease of use.

“Our offer aims at bringing simplicity in a context where enterprises must migrate to cloud working but are filled with dread about how that will disturb collaborative work,” said Lefterov, adding that this can include having to use new cloud-native applications and pointing to URLs rather than navigating local folders.

“Let’s take the example of video surveillance. On the pretext of working in hybrid cloud mode, providers sell applications they call ‘cloud-first’ that aren’t really hybrid cloud. In these solutions, camera images are saved to the cloud and re-downloaded to surveillance team screens. That brings a time lag, and if the internet connection goes down, surveillance won’t function,” he said.

“With our solution, you retain your existing video surveillance application. The images are stored locally and viewed directly on local workstations,” added Lefterov. “But as images come through they are transferred to the cloud. So you gain in two ways. Video surveillance is immediate and independent of the fragility of your connection, and the images are stored safely in the cloud so that another team can use them remotely, or keep them in a compliant fashion without having to use local storage capacity.”

In such a case, the Tiger software would be installed on the same local network-attached storage (NAS) where the video imagery arrives.

“I haven’t given this example randomly,” said Lefterov. “We have lots of customers in video surveillance. But also in healthcare and media, for example, where the same ways of working are present.”

He added that the software is also used by some military customers to secure their NAS in the cloud without having to invest in a project to entirely shift to cloud working.

Tiger only on Windows for now

Technically, Tiger doesn’t use a database to index local or cloud data. The software works directly at the level of the file system, which it claims guarantees better-optimised access than its competitors. But,you’d need one version of Tiger for each file system, and the company is far from supporting them all.

“Effectively, right now, we are only compatible with Windows file systems, namely NTFS and ReFS,” said Lefterov. “We haven’t yet offered versions for Linux file systems because it doesn’t seem to be a priority for workstation use cases. However, we’re looking into it, because NAS and local systems that connect to it can use Linux.

“Our big challenge is compatibility with macOS, which is popular for video editing. Like all other suppliers, we stumble when it comes to the latest versions of the OS, and Apple has totally locked its file system. MacOS literally stops you manipulating symbolic links and accessing blocks.”

Tiger’s not the only one to face new constraints from Apple. Elsewhere, Carbon Copy Cloner backup software can no longer generate a bootable copy from a Mac’s internal disk.

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