Nexsan Brings New Storage Security Appliance To Channel

The new Assureon 4.0 is a storage array that combines data encryption, remote data replication, and information lifecycle management (ILM) into a single appliance based on content-addressable storage technology, said Diamond Lauffin, senior executive vice president at the Woodland Hills, Calif.-based vendor.

Content-addressable storage, or CAS, turns a data file into an object using a cryptographic algorithm to develop a unique object based on the content of the file to be stored. Because each object is unique, even a slight change to the content of the file changes the hashed object, making it possible to eliminate duplicate files. Using CAS technology also prevents the unauthorized reading of stored information, and allows administrators to see if data has been changed from when it was originally stored.

Nexsan, which goes to market with a channel-only sales model, last month held a day-long solution provider training session for the new Assureon in Las Vegas followed by a half-day test composed of 86 essay questions.

The training, required of partners that go to market with the Assureon, got solution providers excited about the product, but they said it also highlighted a key issue with the product: It may have so many features that it will be difficult to sell.

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The Assureon does disk-to-disk backup, archiving, compliance, security, WORM (write once, read many) backups, and CAS, said Gavin Rosenberg, marketing director Sun Star, an at Inglewood, Calif.-based solution provider. "What do you start talking about first?"

Michael Fanelli, partner in TreTempo, a Dallas-based solution provider, said that whenever he introduces the Assureon concept to a customer, they are interested. "The problem is getting a chance to introduce it," Fanelli said. "As an industry, we're full of buzzwords [like security and CAS]. But every time we create something new, someone reinvents it next week. So customers say, 'I'll wait.'"

The Assureon 4.0, which has already started shipping, now includes a hardware data encryption technology instead of the firmware implementation it previously offered, said Lauffin. In addition to speeding up the AES 256 encryption function, the new hardware also encrypts individual files, not just a specific block of data. As a result, an encrypted file can be read back by software as quickly as it was written, he said.

The new model now allows files to be saved in their native file format instead of in a format that depends on the backup software application used, Lauffin said.

Most storage hardware and software uses a proprietary archive format that requires they be restored using similar hardware or software if the primary storage device is damaged, forcing administrators to replace or repair the devices before continuing operations, said Lauffin.

Files stored on the Assureon, on the other hand, can be manually or automatically redirected to other storage devices without going through an intermediate restore just to get the native file format back. "This eliminates the fire drill condition of the administrator," he said. They can access files directly off the Assureon without the need to restore them. And they can work off the Assureon while they rebuild their primary hardware."

Also new is the use of meta-data to automate customers' file retention policies. Those policies can use such information as the last access date, last modification date, or date created to determine when a file should be deleted, Lauffin said. "And they can be set for different departments," he said. "For example, the sales department can be set so that files are automatically deleted one year after the last access. Or the accounting department can keep a file for seven years if not accessed, or for seven years from the last access."

Nexsan is tackling the security of data storage by putting the security and replication technology in the same appliance. "To do the same with EMC, you need its Centera appliance, Legato backup software, Legato EmailXtender [e-mail archiving software], and some third-party replication component outside their secure environment, as well as a replication appliance like those from [Network Appliance's] Decru or [Milpitas, Calif.-based NeoScale Systems'] CryptoStor in order to do what Assureon does," Lauffin said.