The Anywhere Home Drive

I thought I’d put pen to paper to discuss a topic that was raised during the most recent UK Citrix User Group meeting. Discussions in the afternoon session were focused around user data, mobility and possibly the end of the user home drive as we know it. There has been lots of talk about how insecure DropBox is and the desire for businesses to implement an on premise solution. Obviously there are other commercial and open source services/products in market today that were not covered, e.g. Box, Google Drive and SkyDrive etc.

Ultimately we had AppSense, Citrix and RES in the same room demonstrating their respective products; DataNow, ShareFile and HyperDrive.

The ways in which these products are implemented varies significantly and they’re seemingly targeted at different markets or are trying to solve slightly different problems (some of which I’m not convinced really exist). For example, AppSense take a data aggregation perspective whereas RES are outwardly targeting DropBox with their current release.

From a UEM perspective there is obviously the desire for both AppSense and RES that the users’ personalisation is moved to a solution that also enables ubiquitous access within their respective UEM solutions. Synchronisation of favourites and signatures etc. regardless of device would be a massive boon for corporate users. Microsoft are doing some of this with Windows 8 today via SkyDrive.

My feeling is that regardless of what solution is implemented the vendors need to make using their product easier to use than “free” consumer products. I’m sure the majority of corporate users will happily utilise an alternative solution if it’s as easy or easier to use then their existing tool of choice. Key to this process is ensuring that a user does not have to move their data to a new solution and that their existing workflows continue to work. How many linked spread sheets are entrenched within businesses today?

Out of the solutions demonstrated the other week AppSense appear to have a head start. DataNow will currently (only) make a user’s existing home drive/directory available via the DataNow client on iOS and Android devices. This will be extended to other SMB shares and SharePoint in the future with the DataNow Enterprise product. You never know, it might actually make using SharePoint bearable!

Contrary to the DataNow product, the HyperDrive appliance is targeted directly at replacing DropBox with an on premise alternative. The caveat here is that data still needs to be moved from its existing location to a secured area managed by HyperDrive. Now don’t get me wrong; DropBox users do this already so this should not be huge undertaking. However, moving and duplicating data is not a long term solution.

Citrix announced at Synergy in Barcelona that the “Control Plane” that federates authentication and management for it’s ShareFile product is now available within the EU (Germany). For European organisations that was always going to be necessary requirement. One can only assume that this will be extended to further geographies in the near future?

The introduction of Storage Zones for ShareFile enabling on-premise data storage is something of a (welcome) surprise considering the relationship Citrix have with both AppSense and RES. OK; I’m not really surprised but it has happened quicker than I thought it would. Unfortunately for Citrix, until the Control Plane is able to run on-site it is likely there will still be some reluctance from enterprises as you’re still reliant on Citrix data centres for access to your data.

In summary all three of the products still need some development before they’re adopted by enterprises en masse, if at all.

  • The DataNow Enterprise product isn’t currently shipping (the Essentials version is) so it’s hard to recommend but looks promising.
  • HyperDrive is functional although a “little rough around the edges” but this should be expected for a v1 product. As a direct replacement for DropBox it is workable.
  • ShareFile has some fantastic opportunities with the Citrix Receiver integration but you’ll need both ShareFile Enterprise and CloudGateway Enterprise to the get the most out it. Would a smaller “point” solution be cheaper and easier to implement?

So who can deliver first…?

3 Comments

  1. Andrew Morgan Author November 29, 2012 (1:53 pm)

    Hi Iain!

    Sharefile on premise is smoke and mirrors if you dig into it, although your data is on site, the sharefile cloud still proxies the traffic from your datacentre, through the share file cloud and back to the users.

    It’s also worth noting that share file on premise data is stored in a proprietary format which excludes you from being able to map network drives to the storage. So if your internal client pull data from sharefile, they head out to the sharefile cloud, the sharefile cloud pulls your data up from the datacenter, then sends it back to the client via the internet.

    Team this up with their enterprise sync product and you have data flying through the cloud 2-3 times.

    It’s key strength is cloud gateway integration, but it’s a hard swallow with all the current flaws in the architecture.

  2. Iain Brighton Author November 29, 2012 (2:38 pm)

    Hi Andy,

    I covered the fact that the ShareFile Control Plane is not on premise and therefore, it is a potential blocker to adoption. In hindsight, it looks like a fleeting comment 🙂

    It’s probably wise to mention that the HyperDrive data will probably also be encrypted. It’s not necessary, but as it’s in the DMZ it blickin’ well should be! If it is then getting access to HyperDrive data could also be troublesome. As DataNow “aggregates” data this shouldn’t be an issue as it’s in it’s native form.

    Thanks for your valuable comments!
    Iain

  3. Bram Wolfs Author November 29, 2012 (9:58 pm)

    Nice article Iain! and for the most part I agree with your comment Andrew, but I would like to add the following : As I understand it there is no actual data proxied through ShareFile when using on-premise StorageZones, the only traffic that takes place between the client and the Control plane contains only the file hash and security token, the actual data is pulled directly from the on-premise storagezone from the client. Also if you not choose to encrypt the CIFS share, the data is placed there natively and you could use existing backup solutions to backup the data for example.

    I agree that the control plane being not on-premise, can slow adoption. But on the other hand you don’t have to care about the uptime of the ShareFile control part yourself and only connect StorageZones (on-premise or cloud based) according your geographic needs. There are some limitations though in the first release of ShareFile storagezones (CIFS read-only for example), but the roadmap looks promising, but the information provided about storagezones is very minimal and lacking crucial information IMHO.
    Furthermore I like Hyperdrive because there are less parts involved and it’s a more low entry solution to implement, hopefully they also add new features to the product, as you stated they all have a road ahead and it’s just getting started in this space.

    Bram

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