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Hightail turns to Cleversafe object storage for cloud-file sharing

Hightail’s cloud-sharing service generated a petabyte a month in storage capacity, so it turned to Cleversafe’s object storage technology to reduce costs.

Hightail experienced growing pains when it evolved from a basic online file-storing service, previously named YouSendIt, to a file-sharing service for more than 40 million users. The company chose the Cleversafe Dispersed Storage Network object storage platform to cost-effectively handle its storage needs that were growing by a petabyte per month.

"It was a pretty big shift," said Rob Ruth, Hightail’s vice president of IT operations. "The original product sent a few files per transaction. Now desktop clients drag tens of thousands of files. You can literally sync your entire hard drive. We saw that a traditional file system was not going to suffice, so we started looking for an object storage solution."

The cloud file-sharing company initially had DataDirect Networks GridScaler parallel file storage and a Fibre Channel SAN infrastructure. It now uses commodity hardware and virtualization for its private cloud. Ruth said the company built an agnostic storage layer that hooks into object storage vendors, and Cleversafe is the first hook into that layer.

"It’s an edge delivery layer. Cleversafe determines where the data goes," Ruth said. "We purchased Cleversafe software for the actual file storage. The piece we wrote is for uploading and downloading files. When a user uploads files, it hits us first. We do the virus scanning. We wrote interfaces with the Cleversafe APIs."

Ruth said he looked at other block-based storage but found those systems had the least integration with object storage. Ruth said he also found the Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) public cloud is cost prohibitive in the long run.

"We found Cleversafe storage is substantially cheaper than S3," Ruth said. "If you look at the operating expenses over time, S3 is more expensive. Cleversafe had the most mature APIs."

The net result of using Cleversafe object storage is that Hightail can treat storage as a commodity and focus more on differentiated product features. Hightail has data centers located nationally and internationally.

"We’re effectively increasing our storage footprint while decreasing budget and administrative overhead," Ruth said. "The solution’s ease of use allows us to operate without a dedicated storage team, making Cleversafe four to five times less expensive than our previous provider."

Hightail started using Cleversafe object storage in late 2014 and is still migrating files to the new system. Ruth said Hightail storage expenses are five times less per petabyte compared to the direct-attached storage and SAN it used two years ago. Ruth said his team now spends half as much time on administrative storage tasks than it did with its old storage. He estimates the company has reduced power consumption by more than 30% with Cleversafe.

Cleversafe’s security and encryption technology was another reason Hightail chose it over a service such as Amazon S3.

"One of the things we looked for, which wasn’t a must-have, but a nice-to-have, is we wanted to the security portion to be hands off," he said. "With S3, there is additional overhead to handle the keys and token. S3 by default does not encrypt files and you have to specify that you want to encrypt."

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