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Updates to Ctera global file system target regulated industries

Data deduplication, edge caching, encryption key management and permanent delete all empower administrators in the new Ctera 7.5 global file system update.

Ctera Networks refreshed its flagship Global File System with updated capabilities for managing cloud storage, permanent data deletion and other data protection features

Ctera 7.5, which releases to beta next month with general availability expected early next year, adds features including cloud storage routing for more granular data management and control as well as enterprise key management for cryptographic keys.

Ctera, which first opened its doors in 2008, sells enterprise file software that caches active data on premises through a software filer while encrypting and compressing colder data into object storage on public or private clouds.

The software provides a single namespace to make interacting with the data appear similar to a local computer or on premises as a distributed file system, similar to products from Nasuni and Panzura.

The company's product has matured in its almost 15 years, according to Max Mortillaro, an analyst at GigaOm. These new capabilities reflect that maturity, targeting heavily regulated customers.

"They are very actively trained to sell to military and government organizations," Mortillaro said. "It takes time to reach [that level of maturity]."

Product hardening

The updates and new features in Ctera 7.5 are available to all customers who upgrade at no cost both during the beta and GA launch.

Cloud Storage Routing, the headline feature in version 7.5, enables a single file system for S3-bucket compatible object storage across clouds or on-premises locations. New features let storage administrators set policies for storage routing down to the individual user. Data can reside in the closet data center location for speed or to maintain regulatory compliance.

Customers are looking for proactive threat identification and mitigation.Max Mortillaro
Max MortillaroAnalyst, GigaOm Media

In previous versions, Ctera supported these capabilities, according to Oded Nagel, chief strategy officer for Ctera. But it lacked a tool to automate the process for customers.

"We always had multi-tenancy. But it was always a little too rigid for defining policies," Nagel said, noting the service could be used for dividing storage along business departments or to keep data separated for service providers.

Cache deduplication, another new feature, enables edge filer using Ctera software to eliminate excess data, freeing up storage and improving performance even for smaller drives or object storage allowances. The new local quota polices provides admins with a tool to enforce storage quotas across filers down the folder level, reducing junk data buildup.

The update also includes support for new storage services such as Cohesity SmartFiles, Hitachi Content Platform and Quantum ActiveScale. A new UI for the Filer Sync Dashboard and improvements for file systems in MacOS environments round out the general improvements.

Incoming threats

Ctera 7.5 also focuses on data protection, an area that analysts believe will become critical to enterprise file storage environments.

Enterprise Key Management, a data protection feature, delegates storage of cryptographic keys through the Key Management Interoperability Protocol, a standard for key encryption, and is certified for Thales CipherTrust, an encryption management console and platform. The Ctera Portal management console can enable key management, set access policies, provide audits and offer API connections to other encryption services. Ctera Edge Filers have no access to keys, keeping control localized to the management console for administrators.

Permanent Delete provides unrecoverable file erasure protected by a two-factor authentication process. Targeted uses for the capability include removal of classified data in accordance with regulations such as right for erasure requests under the GDPR.

Future updates should further incorporate data protection capabilities and tools, Mortillaro said.

Ctera already offers immutable snapshots and recovery capabilities, along with API connections to Varonis Systems' auditing and compliance service. But identifying threats as they enter a storage system would be useful, he said.

"Customers are looking for proactive threat identification and mitigation," Mortillaro said. "If you have it at the storage level, then you can act before it's too late. … It's always better for a customer to get something that is native, and you don't need to onboard another vendor."

Tim McCarthy is a journalist living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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