Nexsan Targets EMC With Storage Security Appliance

The Woodland Hills, Calif.-based vendor, known mainly for its low-cost RAID storage, next week plans to introduce Assureon, an appliance for securely storing and accessing data. Assureon is based on technology that Nexsan obtained via its March acquisition of Evertrust, a developer of software that adds regulatory compliance functionality to storage arrays.

The Assureon appliance is targeted at the compliance and archiving space now dominated by EMC's Centera. Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi, a Cleveland-based solution provider, said Nexsan is making a bold move by targeting EMC--especially in light of Nexsan&'s channel-only approach to storage.

"Compliance is not something most resellers can sell," he said. "If you have a track record with compliance, it's easier to get involved."

But that's not stopping Chi, Knieriemen added. "We already have a large global organization with a need for the Assureon," he said. "Each of our salespeople have one or two interested customers. Early adopters will jump on quickly. Compliance is still a maturing market, but a lot of customers have identified a need."

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The Assureon offers full compliance and information life-cycle management (ILM) capabilities, but to help solution providers build the market, Nexsan is emphasizing the security part, said Diamond Lauffin, senior executive vice president at Nexsan.

The product encrypts data before it&'s stored using two hash schemes, MD5 and SHA-11, Lauffin said. But unlike other vendors' solutions, which provide an encryption key to allow access to data on archive media such as a tape, Assureon has unique encryption keys for each file.

"With other products, you can shred the encryption key to an entire tape, so you can't read the file from the tape," Lauffin said. "But with HIPAA, how do you know what patient files are on what tapes, because of the lifespan of a patient? How can you delete the files? With Assureon, we can shred the encryption key to an individual file, so it doesn't make any difference what tape the file is on."

On the Assureon, a file is saved as a unique object. Multiple copies of the same file are linked to that object to cut the amount of capacity needed to save multiple identical copies of a sales presentation, for instance, according to Lauffin. For compliance reasons, those files can be saved along with rules that state who can access them and when they should be automatically deleted. Different rules can be kept for each department so that, for example, the sales department can access a particular file for one year, accounting for seven years and legal for 10 years, he said.

For files that aren&'t kept for compliance purposes, Nexsan uses a patent-pending technology that regularly audits such files to see if they are missing and to provide notification of missing files and their audit trails. "It's a safeguard feature so the audit department or the CIO knows that if a file is supposed to be there for three years, it's there," Lauffin said.

The Assureon also runs a regular audit on data to ensure that it&'s still readable, he said. "For archiving, you may know a file is on tape, but is it readable after five years? Even on a RAID array, how do you know it's good? It may have become corrupted. So we run a timed audit on the data to make sure it's readable."

The Assureon doesn&'t have integrated storage capacity but instead includes Nexsan ATA-based or--in the near future--SATA-based storage arrays on the back end. That allows it to scale from small businesses to enterprises, Lauffin said.

He compared the Assureon to EMC's Centera compliance appliance, which allows four disk drives per rack shelf. "If you are a broker looking to record voice messages to secure storage and need 300 Tbytes of capacity, with the Centera, at four drives per 3U space, for 300 Tbytes the floor space and heat needs are enormous, and the price will choke you," he said.

The Assureon is slated to ship next week. Its price has yet to be determined.