April 30, 2013
The enterprise world is split between those who believe bottom-up approaches to file sharing (as typified by vendors like Box and Dropbox) will be the future of large organizations. On the other hand a number of people point to the status quo of centralized IT and suggest that the future will look much like the present – sure there will be a few different types of devices in the corporate setting – but file access and control will be under the strict control of the CIO.
Into this discussion come NTP software a 10 year or so veteran of the management and control of unstructured data. NTP solutions power the file access and logging for over 20 million corporate users worldwide. Broadly the NTP solutions span the policy aspects of file access, and the log capture and analytics part of the space. With the rise of BYOD however, NTP realized that they needed a solution that played nicely in the reality of corporate devices and locations Enter Universal File Access (UFA). UFA aims to integrate the most common storage hosts and object stores in order to make an organization’s file data available to end users in line with active Directory and other policies.
I spoke yesterday with Mark Smith from NTP Software about the launch. The company viewpoint can be summarized as seeing the world in two distinct lights:
- Consumers – who wish to sync and share files
- Enterprises – who wish to use, capture and secure files
The difference being that consumers err on the side of openness and sharing, whereas enterprises need logging, lock-down, control and certainty to ensure their core IP is maintained and regulatory compliance adhered to. That’s a message that easily blurs into traditional vendor FUD however, since compliance is the #1 hook that traditional vendors use to justify adherence to existing ways of working. Indeed NTP deliver on this fear and doubt expectation, their release claims that:
Sync and share promiscuously copies file data anywhere and everywhere making security and risk management even more difficult – if not impossible
I’m not sure pragmatic CIOs who take a balanced risk and reward view towards file sharing will quite see it that way but there you go. The key difference between UFA and other more well known file solutions is that, by default, UFA only uses the cloud as a transport methodology. Files aren’t stored in the cloud but sit on existing enterprise storage assets. UFA is made up of three core components:
- Cloud Connector – one or more services that maintain a connection between internal storage hosts and the BYOD Manager. It integrates with Windows Active Directory and provides control over limits on size, quantity and type of file data
- BYOD Manager – one or more services that offers connections to end-user devices. It provides flexible caching options, proxies Active Directory security and aggregates communications
- BYOD Suite – client software appropriate for all common devices and operating systems. It provides end users with the ability to immediately upload and delete file data, and allows for lost or stolen devices to be shut down and wiped of business-critical information
The bottom line here is an assessment of how close the future will look to today’s paradigm. If we stand back and look at the macro trends that are impacting on enterprises, it’s hard to see how the majority of enterprises of the future won’t look significantly different to what they loo like today. Part of that change will be a move to a far more organic structure – both in terms of workforce and systems. It’s my belief that existing ways of working with data are simply too prescriptive to work in this new form of organization and it’s only through the use of hyper-flexible (and, yes, potentially slightly more risky) approaches that organizations can assure their survival.
UFA looks like a good solution for an enterprise that simply wants to deliver its existing data approach but within a BYOD world. That may solve todays problem, but it does little to solve the problem of tomorrow.