Dropbox, Google Drive and other consumer-oriented online storage services may be big with BYOD-toting end users. But they’re no such hit with datacenter administrators and security managers.
Not only do they give users a place to squirrel away potentially sensitive corporate data, they do it in a way that makes the data inaccessible to their employers.
Despite those headaches, the idea of offsite and on-demand storage is so attractive to corporations—many of which use Dropbox and Google Drive to deal with spikes in demand or to trade files between companies—that most consumer-oriented storage services have also launched business editions.
Startup SwiftStack has taken that business-oriented service in a new direction a relatively inexpensive, virtualization- and cloud-friendly online storage service aimed at corporations. Rather than simply acting as a file locker accessible through a Website, SwiftStack built its service on the open-source OpenStack cloud platform, particularly OpenStack Swift object-storage framework. (OpenStack is an open-source Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform developed as part of a joint effort by Rackspace and NASA, launched in 2010.)
OpenStack features virtualized storage architecture that combines distributed storage systems into a single pool of storage, managing backup, redundant storage and data replication across the cluster without manual intervention from users. (More on OpenStack Swift architecture, gateways and interfaces is available here.)
OpenStack data stores can be accessed via APIs or directly by end users, and monitored and controlled using enterprise storage systems based in a corporate datacenter. SwiftStack’s storage service is designed for use via API or a manual drag-and-drop interface; there’s also the browser-based SwiftStack Controller dashboard, which allows data mangers to manage where and how data is stored within a storage space (it comes with all the alerts and reporting that one expects).
The service itself handles authentication load balancing and provides monitoring agents that expose the workings of each storage node.
That level of virtualization makes using SwiftStack’s service less like Dropbox or other consumer services, and more akin to accessing data on Amazon’s S3 or other cloud-based storage.
Private-cloud services in general—and private storage in particular—are becoming popular among companies that want to be able to keep control of their own data as if it resided in their own datacenters, but with the flexible capacity and accessibility of services based in the cloud, according to Terri McClure, analyst for Enterprise Strategy Group.