Nexsan Brings Compliance Appliance To SMBs

The Woodland Hills, Calif.-based company plans to unveil the Assureon SA archive appliance on Monday at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference in New Orleans.

The Assureon SA is a smaller version of the company's Assureon compliance appliance, which was launched in August 2005. The product was updated last May with the introduction of new encryption and archiving features.

Both the Assureon and Assureon SA use content-addressable storage technology to store fixed content files, images, recordings and other content as objects, allowing searches of documents by date; by fields such as title, location, size and author; by keywords; and by metadata or XML data.

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.

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However, Nexsan and its channel partners faced a major problem: the Assureon is too high-end for many customers looking for compliance archiving solutions, said Philip Black, Nexsan president and CEO.

"They were designed to compete with EMC's Centera," Black said. "But that's at the high-end, a high-dollar-value sale. It's more like a direct product. We don't sell direct. But our partners are looking for something more accessible."

With the Assureon SA, Nexsan has taken out the data encryption and network security features and capped its capacity to a maximum of 20 million documents, Black said.

Still, the product includes RAID 6 to prevent data loss if two drives fail at the same time and WORM (write once, read many) to prevent accidental or intentional rewriting or deletion of data. It also includes file de-dupe, also known as file deduplication, which decreases the amount of storage capacity by saving only one copy of a file.

As a result, Nexsan can offer the Assureon ay a list price of $65,000, Black said. That includes a total of 10.5 Tbytes, of which 4 Tbytes is usable if customers replicate their data locally. For remote replication, customers can purchase two units for $99,000. The original Assureon lists for about 20 percent more.

"That's a radical price," Black said. "You usually have to pay $65,000 just for the search software alone, and then only for a few million documents."

Solution providers who have worked with the Assureon in the past like the new Assureon SA's combination of price and features.

Jeanne Wilson, president and founder of Condor Storage, a Phoenix-based storage solution provider that has partnered with Nexsan for four years, said the original Assureon was definitely a hard sell, even though it was easy to show customers its technology and price advantage over the Centera.

"We did a lot of marketing of Assureon," Wilson said. "But it's like a Swiss Army Knife, with security, encryption, data shredding and so on. It was so broad that customers really didn't know what to do with it. And we weren't always sure of whether to market it to IT people or to CIOs and CFOs."

The new version is much more affordable, and with the cuts in features it's now easier to install, Wilson said. "But it still has the key features customers need," she added. "Most exciting is how customers can do a Google-like search and expand their archives to up to 20 million documents."

Greg Knieriemen, vice president of marketing at Chi, a Cleveland, Ohio-based solution provider that has sold several Assureons since the product was released, said the new Assureon SA will help expand his company's compliance business into smaller firms, especially in the medical and law office markets.

"The Assureon was more toward the high end of the SMB market with its features," Knieriemen said. "But the Assureon SA has taken out things like encryption that are not a big deal. Encryption in the data center is still low on the list of priorities."

Instead, Knieriemen said, the main priority of his customer base is effective search of documents. "The Assureon SA will be great for companies like law firms with three to four remote offices," he said. "There is software out there already but nothing as intuitive as the Assureon SA, with its integrated hardware and software."

The Assureon is available now for customer shipments.