Private Enterprise File Sync-and-Share … and then There were Two

It was just a couple of months ago that I became aware that enterprise file sync-and-share capabilities were available for the first time behind corporate file walls with the introduction of Nexsan’s UNITY product. While at the time I could not find another storage system that offered similar capabilities, that all changed this week when HGST, a subsidiary of Western Digital, announced that it had partnered with CTERA, to offer a competitive product in the private enterprise file sync-and-share space.
The path that these two companies followed to deliver private enterprise file sync-n-share capabilities are very similar. In Nexsan’s case, it capitalized on the acquisition of Connected Data by its parent company, Imation, in Q4 of 2015. It then merged Connected Data’s Transporter technology with its existing NST unified storage arrays to create its new line of UNITY storage arrays.
The UNITY models offer private enterprise file sync-and-share capabilities and operate behind corporate fire walls. This approach serves to mitigate or even eliminate the need for organizations to rely upon public cloud providers such as Dropbox for similar tasks.
To deliver similar functionality on its storage arrays, HGST, a Western Digital company, took a comparable approach. Only instead of acquiring a company, it partnered with CTERA to create a private enterprise file sync-and-share solution that features centralized backup, management, and recovery and combines it with its Active Archive solution that functions as the back end private storage cloud.
HGST Cloud Storage

Source: HGST

In discussing this HGST-CTERA configuration with an HGST spokesman, the solution leverages CTERA appliances that are each installed at remote sites. Each of these appliances can scale to dozens or even hundreds of TBs and offers, as part of its software features, file sync-and share capabilities along with file sharing, data protection (in the form of snapshots,) and cloud gateway capabilities.
However, a single CTERA appliance alone cannot natively scale to host the multiple petabytes of data that the HGST Active Archive System can house. By placing HGST at the core of this private enterprise file sync-and-share configuration which resides behind a CTERA appliance, organizations can centrally manage and protect their data regardless of where it resides in the enterprise while still creating a central repository that scales to a sufficient size to hold all of the corporate data.
To ready this configuration for enterprise use, both CTERA and HGST each did extensive testing on this configuration to optimize it for performance. While HGST was unable to confirm exactly how many appliances were tested or what the largest tested configuration was, CTERA and HGST have certified this configuration and will jointly support it.
The real question for organizations looking for private enterprise file sync-and-share now comes down to a matter of choice. Whereas even a few months ago there were limited to no choices for this type of functionality, at least two now exist – one from Nexsan and one from HGST-CTERA.
While I have personally not done a technical deep dive on either one of these solutions, the differences that jump out to me initially are two-fold.

  1. Single provider versus a partnership. Nexsan bundles its private enterprise file sync-and-share as part of its UNITY arrays and owns all of the intellectual property. Conversely, HGST-CTERA is a partnership and while they jointly claim to certify and support their solution, organizations tend to have a proclivity to prefer to have one throat to choke. Nexsan gives organizations that one throat to choke.
  2. Scalability. If organizations have to sync files across hundreds or thousands of locations and potentially have multiple petabytes of data to protect, it would appear at first blush that the HGST-CTERA solution is currently better positioned to scale to these high levels of storage capacity than Nexsan.

Regardless of what your organization’s needs are, it is encouraging to see that two solutions now provide private enterprise file sync-and-share. While providers such as Box and Dropbox continually offer assurances that companies can confidently use them, many organizations still prefer to keep their data inside their firewalls where they ultimately have control of their data. Nexsan and HGST-CTERA now give organizations two new options from which to choose a file sync-and-share solution that resides behind their corporate firewalls.

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