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Ctera Vault locks up critical data with WORM tech

File gateway vendors are looking to differentiate themselves in the market, with Ctera eyeing regulated industries by protecting data with a suite of cybersecurity features.

Ctera Network's latest feature locks customer data in place by applying write once, read many technology to object storage.

Ctera Vault, available today, will add new cybersecurity and data protection features to the vendor's file gateway technology in the coming months, according to the company. The platform caches business-critical data on premises through a global file namespace for fast access and tiers colder data to cheaper object storage in public and private clouds.

The first and lone feature of Vault adds write once, read many (WORM) lock capabilities to customer data alongside a suite of management tools to control retention periods and administrative role privileges. Vault is included for customers subscribed to capacity pricing and above.

WORM technology has existed for decades within physical storage media, such as tape and optical discs, but its use in cloud storage will increase as more enterprises look to offload the cost of storage data from on premises or hyperscalers into cheaper object storage, said Dave Raffo, an analyst at Futurum Group. The technology lets one user write to the media, and limits other users to strictly read what was saved.

"It's another way of protecting data," Raffo said. "[Ctera is] putting together as many security features as they can."

Write once, lock once

Customers in regulated industries such as finance, healthcare or government need a form of immutable storage more secure than an object lock could provide, said Oded Nagel, CEO at Ctera.

Object lock, available in most object storage offerings, sets a retention period for object data at creation, meaning users cannot purposefully or accidentally delete the data.

"[These enterprises] need to show their customers their data was stored and never changed," Nagel said.

Object lock provides immutability to data but is limited in management features compared with Ctera Vault, according to Nagel. The Vault includes creating a compliance office admin role within the platform, designating specific individuals beyond the administrator to create and maintain WORM data volumes, and specifying what object storage is used for backup.

Other capabilities include enforcing granular policy across the namespace, setting up grace periods before data is locked and logging attempted changes to WORM data. Customers can specify the severity of the data lock by limiting deletion until a specific date or making absolutely no changes or deletion possible.

The Ctera Vault will include additional security features in the months to come, Nagel said.

Better to best mousetrap

File to object storage vendors, which include Ctera as well as competitors such as Panzura or Nasuni, have matured in the market, according to Marc Staimer, founder and president of Dragon Slayer Consulting.

WORM technology itself isn't new, but niche features for specific industries can provide differentiation, especially those that highlight cybersecurity and ransomware protection, he said.

"[Vault] doesn't solve a bell curve problem. It solves a niche problem," Staimer said. "[Purchases] always come down to what problem you're solving."

The file gateway market may have matured, but its adoption may have slowed as more employees follow return-to-office mandates despite it experiencing a boom during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Ray Lucchesi, president and founder of Silverton Consulting.

"Where the workforce ends up may determine how successful these [gateway] companies are," he said.

Tim McCarthy is a journalist from the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. He covers cloud and data storage news.

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