Monday, 13 August 2012

AppSense DataNow, What is it?

AppSense have recently released various beta versions of their latest product DataNow, so what is it and what can it do for you and your organisation.

Firstly, what is it?

So AppSense market this using at least two catch phrases, "On premise data solution", and a "Data Broker".

Locating your or your companies data in the cloud comes with risks: security, ownership, leakage etc. DataNow avoids those risks as it does not move any of your data to the cloud but rather enables cloud access to your data. This is where the ubiquity comes from. DataNow provides anywhere, anytime, any device access to your data where it is today, inside your organisations firewalls, protected, backed up and importantly still owned and controlled by you or your organisation.

Your storage guys are happy, your security guys are happy. Nothing has changed directly with your data and the associated storage platforms that support it. Your security guys don't have the massive headache of data no longer on premise. However they must think about data leakage and how it can be prevented and audited.

The second term AppSense are using is a Data Broker. For the last ten years or so we have seen the separation of the layers making up the general Windows stack. We have separated computers from hardware with virtualisation. We have separated applications from computers with application virtualisation. We have also separated the user personality from computers using user virtualisation. But what about data? Essentially isn't everybody's job in IT to provide users with access to their data?

DataNow is separating data from any other layers or dependencies. As a user simply put, I have data, data that I need. I have that data in various locations, I have it on my homedrive and my shared drives provided to me by IT. But I also have data in DropBox, SkyDrive, Sharefile etc. I want all of that data made available to me in one location, and I also want to get access to that data from anywhere independent of a specific computer. Admittedly some of that data with the various cloud providers may be personal but some of it is definitely work related. Here comes the Data Broker moniker. AppSense promote DataNow as being a broker to a users data. As it stands today DataNow brokers users to only one of their data locations, so its still a little bit of a work in progress. Admittedly that location os the  the one location where all users locate the vast majority of their data; their AD defined home drive. However they have stated that DataNow will broker requests to a users shared locations, such as a company shared drive(s), plus other external cloud storage providers. As soon as it can broker these requests then yes it will be a true broker. Which is a significant step forward to completing the separation of data from the current dependencies it has.

So what else does DataNow give you?

Well as above it removes the dependency on a Windows machine to get access to your data.
Speaking in massive generalisations most organisations enable data access through a Windows machine. It may be a Windows desktop or laptop on their desk or a virtual desktop be it a VDI or a shared desktop such as XenApp used on premise or remotely. If a user wants access to their data, then they have to first connect to one of these machines. But why?  Data is separate form a machine. Why must a user connect to a Windows machine to be on boarded to their data. Should the user not be able to access their data from anywhere, independent of their device. Yes, is I think the answer.

DataNow provides access to that data internally with as little as the DataNow appliance and a browser. Once connected the browser view follows the same pattern as DropBox and all the others for presenting that data. Files can be downloaded, uploaded and deleted just via a browser. In addition there are clients for Windows, MAC's tablets and smartphones that enable synching of the same data in the case of Windows and MAC's and viewing and deleting when installed on tablets and smartphones.

The second thing it gives you is BYOD access to your data. Now again a big generalisation but BYOD really means BYOM: Bring Your Own Mac. I am yet to see many people bringing in their Windows machines into the office. However the reverse is true of the MAC Books. DataNow through its MAC client provides a simple method of giving these users access to the same data as if they were sat on a corporately provided Windows machine. Admittedly there are others ways of doing this. But if you were concerned about enabling Cloud access to your data and just wanted approved BYOD users to have access to their data, then get them to install the MAC client on their Apple, configure it to point to the DataNow Appliance and there you have your HomeDrive synching with a local drive on the MAC, also available offline.

What does it need to get uptake in the enterprise?

It needs to be a true broker, connecting users to all of their sources of data. It also needs to have policy control. Now AppSense are the daddies at policy, it run's through the veins of all of their products specifcally Environment Manager. DataNow needs some level of policy control over how, who and where, data can be accessed downloaded, uploaded etc, and under what conditions. IT requires that it  can audit events such as downloads of files to notify security of potential data leakage.

This may come through AppSense's recent acquisition of RapShere but that seems to be tablet/smartphone specific and based around geo-awareness. Hopefully AppSense will get some of this policy capability from their other products ported into DataNow.

It also needs to be flexible in how it integrates into an organisations already complex infrastructure, i.e can it integrate with other authentication, proxy products etc.

Is it worth it? If you want ubiquitous access to your data without shifting it to the cloud. If you want data access on BYOD devices without having to use a MAC as a thin client to connect to a Windows VM to get access to data, then yes.

Next blog will be how to deploy and configure the appliance.

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