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DataGravity data-aware storage keeps an eye on file security

Data-aware storage vendor DataGravity added security features to Discovery Series software to give admins more security over files on its arrays.

DataGravity today released a major software upgrade for its Discovery Series of data-aware storage, adding security features to go with the data governance focus of its first release a year ago.

Discovery Series 2 software runs across DataGravity's hardware lineup -- the DG1100 (18 TB), DG2200 (48 TB) and DG2400 (96 TB). The arrays use metadata to identify sensitive information, such as credit card and social security numbers, and to determine if a company is in compliance with legal regulations.

DataGravity is among a small group of vendors -- Qumulo and Tarmin are others -- that sell arrays classified as data-aware storage. While these vendors' systems provide different functions, they use advanced analytics and reporting to provide greater visibility into stored data.

DataGravity president John Joseph said the new security features allow Discovery Series to offer data protection around "the five W's" -- who is accessing data, what files are being changed, when activity is occurring, where sensitive data is located and why capacity is getting scarce.

"We're adding layers of intelligence into a device that was commoditized years ago," Joseph said. "We're breathing new life into that thing."

We're adding layers of intelligence into a device that was commoditized years ago.
John Joseph, president, DataGravity

DataGravity Discovery Series creates a searchable index for every file it stores. With Discovery Series 2 software, DataGravity adds the ability for administrators to create custom and domain-specific tags to search against. It also adds email alerts that notify organizations when and where sensitive information is stored. The new version allows administrators to set intelligence profiles identifying users as an IT, auditor or business user and provide appropriate permissions.

Management Packs for VMware vRealize Operations Manager and Log Insight include plug-ins for those applications that provide greater visibility and troubleshooting. Joseph said DataGravity will integrate with more applications in future releases.

"We're not the end-all, be-all security solution," Joseph said. "But we're a very major component in a more holistic security approach to the data center of the future. In the airports today you see signs that say, 'If you see something, say something.' There are technologies in each layer of the IT onion that will say something and see something, and we're one piece of that much larger solution. We can see things in people's data that they couldn't see before."

Joseph said DataGravity counts its customers "in the dozens," and he claims every one of them has found sensitive information with Discovery Series storage. He said smaller companies might use it for primary storage, while others complement existing storage by moving files onto the DataGravity system "to discover something their storage isn't going to see."

Not just 'dumb storage'

Jaison Bailley, senior systems engineer for Pittsburgh-based building parts manufacturer Centria, said his company bought a DG220 system early this year as part of a storage refresh. Centria also acquired a Tintri array at the time, and uses Tintri to run its JD Edwards EnterpriseOne ERP and VDI while the Discovery Series serves as a file server.

"Instead of having dumb storage, it gives you a better look at what's going on in your array," Bailley said of the DataGravity box. "If you have inappropriate stuff, the FBI can come in and take everything. If anybody has child porn on your server, you have a way of seeing what's out there."

Bailley said soon after installing the DG220 he searched for the first three digits of his social security number and found an 11-year-old fax from his company's human resources department on the server. "We shouldn't have sensitive data like that on there," he said.

Bailley said DataGravity helped Centria meet regulatory compliance requirements when it was acquired by a public company NCI Building Systems in January.

He said he expects to upgrade to Discovery Series 2 next month. He is especially interested in the expanded tag features and the ability to get email alerts when unwanted files are found. "With your custom tags and alerting feature, when files like MP3s or movies that you want to monitor go on the server, you get an email,' Bailley said. "That's a cool feature."

Data-aware isn't just for storage

Steve Duplessie, senior analyst of Enterprise Strategy Group, said the growing data-aware crowd goes beyond storage into other parts of the IT infrastructure.

"I don't think this is a 'category' per se -- I think it's a movement," Duplessie said. "There are people doing smart infrastructure all over the data center, not just storage. The 128 Technology people are talking about building data-aware networks that can change themselves on the fly to optimize paths based on the data they carry. All the software-defined folks are really attempting to build smarter infrastructure that reacts to the data itself. You'll see more intelligence coming out of bigger players soon, too."

DataGravity, founded by EqualLogic founder Paula Long and Joseph, has $92 million in funding and has been well-received in the industry. Its biggest challenge could be finding the right audience because it is not designed to work as a traditional primary storage system.

"Once people find a good use case for the intelligence they have been given, they will never go back to 'dumb' storage," Duplessie said. "The trick is to find those use cases and tell the world about them. We're really early on at this point."

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