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Nexsan sets out to fuel CAS as a service

Nexsan's Assureon archiving software now lets service providers separate stored data from different customers, so users know their data is not being mixed with anyone else's.

Nexsan Technologies is trying to kick-start adoption of its Assureon archiving software by upgrading the software to enable archive as a service.

Assureon 6.0 is targeted at service providers and organizations that want to offer archiving as a service for internal users. The new version of the archiving software allows service providers to separate data from different customers stored on hard disk and also includes a new file system that eliminates object limits.

Nexsan, which is primarily a secondary storage systems company, began selling the Assureon content-addressed storage (CAS) platform in 2006 after acquiring the technology from startup EverTrust. Nexsan has sought to challenge EMC's Centera, the behemoth of CAS systems, but Assureon hasn't had much of an impact yet. In the S-1 Nexsan filed in April with the SEC to begin its process for a potential IPO, the vendor described revenue from Assureon as "not material" among its $56 million of revenue in 2007.

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Nexsan sells Assureon archiving software on an appliance to work in concert with its hardware, usually the SATABeast storage array. With version 6.0 of Assureon, Nexsan seeks to take advantage of the growing SaaS trend with a CAS-based Archive as a Service offering.

"Version 5 was a standalone archiving product," said Bob Woolery, Nexsan's senior vice president of marketing. "With version 6.0, we added capabilities so you can take the archive and use it as SaaS externally or internally."

Perhaps the major new feature for archiving is the ability to physically separate data from different customers on hard disk. This allows service providers to notify customers that their data "is not being commingled with anybody else's data," Woolery said.

Assureon 6.0 also creates a file system database for each archive, while providing users with a single view of all the databases. The previous version used one large database, and customers had to buy more storage when the database filled up. The new version eliminates the object limits that could cause customers to buy new storage after reaching the limit, even if they have capacity left, Woolery said.

Eliminating object limits helps service providers, according to Terri McClure, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, "because it means the system can scale and still be managed as a single entity, rather than installing a new system every time the object limit is hit."

Archive as a Service could appeal to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in heavily regulated industries which lack the expertise and resources to handle long-term archiving in-house, McClure said.

"For instance, healthcare and financial services have regulations that require long-term data retention and assured authenticity," she said. "As more and more SMBs move from paper-based systems to digital systems, retention of digital data for tax purposes is another likely reason for CAS. These enterprises don't typically have the expertise in-house to deploy a long-term archival system, nor would most want to."

No pricing is available because Assureon is usually sold as a custom installation. Nexsan lists the base price for its previous Assureon systems as under $49,000, Woolery said.


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