Product allows encryption of archived content

Nexsan Technologies introduced a new disk appliance this week that is among the first to support in one device two of the hottest trends in enterprise storage: encryption for stored data and fixed-content archiving.

Fixed content, or reference data as it’s sometimes called, is electronic files such as e-mail messages, images and other records that are not usually changed once created but need to be retained for long periods of time because of regulatory or organizational demands. The proliferation of fixed content is one of the biggest drivers of the growth in records data storage, experts say. Meanwhile, security and privacy concerns are stirring interest in storage encryption solutions.

Nexsan’s new Assureon appliance, which is available now, is designed to address fixed content and security requirements, said Diamond Lauffin, senior executive vice president of Nexsan.

The system stores archive data on redundant arrays of Serial ATA (ATA) disks, which are less expensive than the Fibre Channel and SCSI disks typically used in enterprise storage systems. Serial ATA’s lower cost has made disks a viable alternative to tape for data archiving. System administrators generally prefer disk to tape because it allows faster data backups and restores.

However, Serial ATA disks are only one piece of the Assureon. Equally important are its management features that ensure that data is protected from unauthorized access, corruption or deletion until the end of its preset retention period and those that optimize the use of disk space by identifying duplicate files and storing them only once, an approach called content-addressable storage.

More specifically, Assureon’s features include:

* File-level encryption using 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), whether the files are stored on Assureon’s Serial ATA disks or moved off to removable media such as tape or optical disks.

* File-level authentication and tamperproof time stamping, along with reporting capabilities that provide an audit trail of when files are created and modified and who accesses them.

Nexsan, which got its start selling ATA-based enterprise storage products about four years ago, acquired much of Assureon’s file security and management technology through its purchase of AESign Evertrust in March.

Assureon is available in several configurations that can cater to different performance objectives, with price scaling accordingly, Lauffin said. A simple setup with one processor handling file management and encryption functions costs about $4,500 per terabyte of storage. Clustering two processors in an active-active design for better availability raises the price to about $8,000 per terabyte. A four-processor configuration, which maximizes throughput performance and availability, brings the price up to $12,000 per terabyte, Lauffin said.

Nexsan may be one of the first companies to combine encryption and content-addressable storage in a single device, but it isn’t the first to offer the features independently. EMC’s Centera, introduced several years ago, was one of the first products specifically designed to archive fixed content using ATA disks. More recently, Storage Technology. introduced its IntelliStore product for fixed content and Hewlett-Packard unveiled its StorageWorks Reference Information Storage System.

Meanwhile, encrypting data as it’s stored on tape or disk is a feature that has been offered for a couple of years in appliances from Decru, recently acquired by Network Appliance, and NeoScale Systems.

Customer demand for fixed-content and storage security solutions is on the rise, said W. Curtis Preston, vice president of data protection at storage consulting firm GlassHouse Technologies. “The importance of security has become very big,” he said.

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