File archiving has been increasingly in demand since changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) in late 2006 made archiving data for litigation support an important feature. Mimosa executives planned to offer it months ago, but CEO T.M. Ravi said the company was preoccupied over the last year with perfecting a new grid-based hardware architecture and going after large accounts for NearPoint's email archiving features.
"Startups have to narrow their focus so they can do a very good job at one thing and get traction," said Arun Taneja, founder and analyst with the Taneja Group. "If they'd tried to do file and email archiving at the same time, they might have botched up both."
FSA's integration with NearPoint for Exchange will include file-level single instancing across both file archives and email-attachment repositories, a single management console, and the ability to sort and search through email and file data together, including saved legal searches. Up to 64 retention or deletion policies can be applied per object in Mimosa's repository to meet legal hold requirements.
Beta tester, Rick Chin, senior vice president of IT for Pinnacle Financial Corp., has no complaints about FSA's timing. "When we began evaluating products in 2006, email archiving was the top priority for us," he said. "We knew we didn't have the resources to roll out both file and email archiving, and file archiving would only become important for us in about a year and a half. That's the window we're working in now."
Scott Whitney, Mimosa's vice president of product management, formerly a product manager for Symantec's Enterprise Vault, claims Mimosa has the advantage of being a "fast follower," because it could fix problematic features in products that came before it.
For example, Whitney said, earlier archiving products had issues with stub files that replace full versions on primary storage systems when data is archived. "Our system will use a filter driver applied to the kernel on the original file server that will accurately resolve the movement of stubs," he said.
FSA will also avoid what Ravi termed a "yo-yo effect" suffered by archiving systems that restore messages back to the original primary device when users access files. The new Mimosa software will restore files end users click on from the archive directly to the cache on their workstation machines, skipping primary storage altogether.
Chin said that's been the most interesting feature of the new software. "A lot of other file archiving products I've evaluated will call files back to the server when they're accessed again and then try to push them back down into the archive, or leave them there for the next archiving interval," he said. This feature will help him avoid adding Fibre Channel drives to his NetApp filers, something he said was surprising. "I was expecting a delay [with calling files back] but the performance so far has been the same as calling it up from production disk," he said.
So far, Chin said the integration between email and file searches hasn't been made fully available in the beta version of the software. "They're still polishing the administrative tools," he said, adding that he's also looking forward to integrated search of instant messages and Microsoft SharePoint.
Content within files archived to FSA can also be monitored for compliance with regulatory and corporate policies, thanks to a partnership between Mimosa and Stellent. Content monitoring search can also be used to find all documents relating to a given query or policy, as opposed to using a query to find a certain set of documents. Security officers can subscribe to different policies and get email alerts if they've been violated.
"Mimosa is certainly a step behind other vendors in offering file archiving, but they also have the advantage of seeing the limitations of the incumbents," said analyst Brian Babineau, Enterprise Strategy Group. "The good thing about their approach is that it allows data to be kept in the same repository, split logically, instead of making users manage file and email data separately."
Babineau said some customers might see this as a disadvantage, however. "Mimosa's not offering anything for users looking for standalone file archiving at this point," he said. "They're going to have to pitch the combination of email and file archiving effectively to customers."