I recently wrote a lot about Object Storage, NAS and sync&share gateways (and I should probably stop doing it, before this blog becomes mono thematic). I strongly believe in Object storage and I think that, in the long term, it can be the solution to correctly manage the huge amounts of data created every day by users. In the mean time we have to give immediate answers to the users while keeping with feet on the ground…

Object storage… not now, not for everyone

Unfortunately today many enterprises aren’t ready to manage a migration to an object storage platform and, in many cases, ordinary NAS solutions are still good enough for the vast majority of them.
It’s not only about moving from one kind of storage to another (and having the same type of service), it is also about taking full advantage of it. In fact, if you are not able to create metadata from data, some of the object storage advantages vanish

At the same time what enterprise end users are really asking for are new ways to access their files. They now have tablets and smartphones alongside their notebooks or desktops and they need to access the data at anytime, everywhere. They know that this is possibile and they use alternative services to do that. Most companies suffer the existence of Dropbox (and other consumer grade Dropbox-like services).

Public cloud (like box for example) is not always a way to go. From the technical point of view you can’t afford to have two different repositories (a local file server and a cloud storage).
And, especially in Europe, where the laws about data locality and NSA scandals have a certain relevance, public cloud is often not considered the best option.

File servers, a thing of the past

File servers and traditional network sharing protocols (like SMB) were thought up for the LAN and not for the WANs nor for the internet. Furthermore, Sync&share is something that users love and IT managers struggle to find a way to give them the same user experience.

The problem is becoming more and more evident when you have many tablets and smartphones in your company. Users tend to switch from PC to tablet and viceversa all day long because they find they are more productive using different tools which are available on different platforms. They need a single data repository to do that, or at least a single view of the data they have access to.

I’ve already said this in the past: a private sync&share service could be the right solution and could be considered a way to overcome ordinary NAS limits when you need to have the same data accessible from different kinds of devices. On the other hand most sync&share products/services were not originally thought up to do this and they have some limitations that could prevent an effective usage.

The solutions

iStock_000020836904MediumThis week, during Storage Field Day 4, I met OxygenCloud. This company, already known for other cloud storage services, is developing a new product called odrive. In practice, this is a solution that allows to build an on-premise sync&share service.
It can be installed on top of a Linux or Windows server sitting in front of an ordinary NAS. The product is not perfect at the moment (it’s in private beta) but shows a very interesting approach and a lot of interesting ideas.
The feature that I love most about odrive is the smart selective sync functionality: this feature allows the end user to have full visibility of directory tree and files without downloading them if not needed: saving space on the local device and bandwidth.

Oxygen is not alone in this quest: NetApp (it has recently released a product but it only works with NetApp filers) and PowerFolder (a small german company with a nice product thought up for Windows file servers and SMB companies) are only a couple of examples.

Bottom line

Traditional NAS protocols were not designed to cope with tablets and smartphones but, at the same time, PCs are here to stay (forever). Users’ needs have changed and they want to be able to access their files from differente devices and locations. Sync&share is an interesting way to do that. In some cases, it can potentially become the primary way to access files maintaining a single access layer.

Disclaimer: I was invited to this meeting by GestaltIT who paid for my travel and accommodation expenses, I have not been compensated for my time and am not obliged to blog. Furthermore, the content is not reviewed, approved or published by any other person than the Juku team.