VMware Gets Into File Sharing, Collaboration

VMware this week unveiled a technical preview of Project Octopus, a new file sharing virtual environment that it describes as a "Dropbox for the enterprise." According to a demonstration video from VMworld, Octopus allows a variety of browser-enabled mobile devices and computing platforms to share, access, display, edit and collaborate on documents and automatically have changes synchronized across devices. The system is slated for release by the middle of next year.

In the video, posted Tuesday by VMworldTV, Sam Khavari, director of product management at VMware, said that unlike the Dropbox online file sharing service, Octopus will permit companies to deploy the system in-house and integrate it with existing data systems.

"IT has become frustrated with Dropbox because it doesn't give them the capability to govern how users use it," and omits major capabilities such as provisioning and authentication control, he said in the video. "We've tailored Octopus to be for IT and and they can run it on prem."

In the demo at VMworld, which concluded Thursday in Las Vegas, VMware was showing the tentacles of Octopus in action, accessing shared documents via iPad and Android devices. Client access also is available from Linux, Mac OS X and Windows systems, Khavari said, and an agent for laptops and desktops on those platforms facilitates off-line editing and synchronization.

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"You pick a folder and all the data will be synchronized from the cloud to that folder. You can open and edit a file, when you save it, the agent will recognize the document has been modified and replicate changes to the cloud and a new version of the document has been created and is available to you and whoever you've shared it to."

The system retains multiple file versions, which are easily accessible to users. It's up to IT departments to decide how many versions of a file are retained, how much data is occupied by each file and which and whether they should be kept on slow storage. Important files can be starred or bookmarked, and users can opt to be notified by email or SMS in real time whenever the file is re-shared or updated. A comments panel accompanies each document.

According to Khavari, VMware will release Project Octopus in the first half of 2012. "When it becomes available you can get it as an ovf [file] so you can deploy on private or ... public cloud." Hybrid versions will be released later. "So if you want, you can have critical data behind the firewall and common data that's not so sensitive in a public deployment." Register to receive beta information at vmwareoctopus.com.