Taming the Unstructured Data Beast

Likewise Software, headquartered in Bellevue Washington, has expertise in networking protocols, platform interoperability as well as identity and access management. They entered into the storage marketplace to develop a SMB/CIFS stack for several OEM vendors that were looking to support Windows with their storage systems.

As a result Likewise developed Likewise Storage Services that allows these vendors to tie into directory services and provide network protocol support for SMB 1.0, 2.0, 2.1 and 2.2. In addition, they provide NFS 3.0 support with NFS 4.1/pNFS support under development. They can run this platform on top of a supported Linux or Unix based server and are well on their way to developing a REST API so that cloud providers may be able to provide direct support.

While Likewise Storage Services is primarily an OEM product their next product will provide analytics, governance and audit capabilities of the unstructured environment and should be of direct interest to the data center. We all know that unstructured data is growing rapidly. Several reports have indicated that by the end of next year 80% of all data will be unstructured data. Compare this to 2007 when only 50% of all data was unstructured.

While organizations can only do so much in controlling the growth of unstructured data they do need to be able to manage that data. In the unstructured case, management is more than just making sure the right data is at the right place but it is also making sure the data is secure, being accessed by the right person and being shared to the right groups. This is complicated given the heterogeneous environment that is the reality of the NAS environment.

The big concern of data centers right now is to be able to prove that there is some sort of auditing of unstructured data in place so they can satisfy that requirement. This may be as simple as being able to respond to requests like “show me everyone who has accessed this file in the last three months”. Even this sort of detail is difficult to ascertain from most storage management software solutions. Likewise makes gathering this data relatively easy.

The Likewise product will be able to go beyond simple auditing and provide proactive protection of the asset that unstructured data is becoming. For example if an employee were planning to leave the company and decided to copy all their data from their home directory to a locally attached USB drive it would be very good for the organization to know that that’s happening.

Standard storage management software may never catch this event, though the user has access to their files, they are not necessarily accessing something they shouldn’t. It’s just the nature of that access, all at once to multiple files, that should trigger the red flag. Again Likewise will be able to detect such an event providing proactive notification that sensitive corporate data may be on its way out of the building.

Storage Swiss take

With a solid OEM foundation, thanks to their Likewise Storage Services product, Likewise software seems to be on the right path. The ability to track, audit and govern unstructured data is lacking in the data center today. Clearly the sheer mass of data is beyond the ability to have an IT administrator manage manually and most software applications don’t yet provide file level governance capabilities. Most organizations will be interested in using Likewise to meet the audit requirement but then be able to explore the software to take full advantage of what it can do.

Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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