SoftNAS, a Houston, Texas-based cloud storage startup, wants enterprises and their branch locations to think beyond on-premise hardware for their file and data protection requirements with its new Cloud File Gateway.

Rick Braddy, CEO and CTO of SoftNAS, told InfoStor that the SoftNAS Cloud File Gateway enables organizations to essentially “create hybrid and private cloud storage” that circumvents vendor lock-in. The offering creates a unified file system that spans local storage systems along with private and Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) compatible public cloud storage, which sits “on top of VMware and [Microsoft] Hyper-V.”

The result is a storage platform that combines “rich NAS filer capabilities” with the economics of the cloud, particularly for organizations that have hopped onto the VMware VSAN bandwagon.

Officially launched a year ago, VMware’s long-awaited Virtual SAN (VSAN) offering was the company’s answer to the fast-growing market for software-defined storage technologies.

Alberto Farronato, VMware’s director of Storage and Availability Product Marketing told InfoStor at the time that the “launch of this technology is extremely meaningful because of how Virtual SAN changes the paradigm of how you manage storage,” during an interview. With VSAN, he added, administrators can “manage storage from the virtual machine without focusing on the application and without having to care about the underlying infrastructure.”

One thing VSAN won’t do natively is wrangle files.

Sensing an opportunity, Braddy noted that early on VMware declared that it was “not going to provide file services on top of VSAN.” Observing that VSAN adoption “took off” in the wake of the platform’s debut, his company quickly stepped in to fill the gap.

SoftNAS Cloud File Gateway enables key network-attached storage (NAS) capabilities on VSAN, including unified access using NFS and CIFS/SMB, complete with Active Directory integration for businesses that have standardized on Microsoft’s corporate identity management and access platform. It also provides VSAN with up to 16 petabytes (PB) of secure, encrypted off-site cloud storage along with high-availability (HA) and capacity-optimization features, including block replication, automatic failover, inline deduplication and data compression.

Customers can also speed up cloud backup operations by enlisting S3 Gateway Cache, a new feature that is available today with the concurrent release of the company’s namesake product, SoftNAS Cloud 3.3 virtual storage appliance. S3 Gateway Cache is a local disk-based cache that frees backup software from the congestion on wide-area networks (WANs) or the Internet, effectively “shortening your backup window,” said Greg Pellegrino, vice president of Products for SoftNAS.

Version 3.3 also now supports Windows Previous Version, he added, enabling end users to restore files without administrator intervention. Other features include SnapClones, which “instantly create a writable copy of snapshots,'” said Pellegrino, along with new automatic drive sparing for RAID setups. On the Amazon cloud front, SoftNAS now supports cross-zone HA for Amazon Virtual Private Clouds (VPCs), the new Frankfurt region and the secure GovCloud for government workloads.