The original title of this article was “NAS is dead” but I thought that it was too strong, and it wasn’t my idea to restart some polemics about an article posted some weeks ago. In any case, everyone working in IT knows that the concept of death has many meanings (e.g.: also mainframes and tapes have been declared dead many times!). BTW, the goal here is to talk about a very touchy topic: internal dropbox-like services for enterprises.

Last week I spent a couple of days with a primary storage vendor talking about object storage. We talked about many aspects about it but, above all, there was a topic that is very sensitive to enterprises now… I can resume it as follows:

Damn iPads!

Every IT manager on this earth is dealing with some sort of mobile device. If not, they will soon!
Moreover, the BYOD phenomenon is making it worse. Tablets are immature from an enterprise point of view and they are difficult to manage, especially when we talk about stored/accessed data. Yes, of course there are some mobile management platforms out there but they solve only part of the problem and they don’t come cheap!

Damn Dropbox!

Obviously the problem is not Dopbox itself but consumer sync&share services in general. The perfect storage for mobile devices is the cloud storage and, especially when the device is a personal one, you tend to use the same services for storing personal and business data!
The process is simple: you pick up a file from your PC, then you attach it to an email and, finally you send it to your personal email address. The last step is an easy upload to your Dropbox-like account. As easy as diving in a swimming pool, that unfortunately is full of piranhas!
In fact, every time that someone does this operation the enterprise loses control of its files: no one knows who is in control, what he is doing with it, if the version is correct and eventually if the people who are accessing that file have the right to do it.
And I won’t talk about the level of security that you can find on a consumer grade sync&share service is probably far from your company policies.
This happens more and more in every enterprise and may of them are looking for viable solutions.

Damn NAS!

Tablets don’t show a filesystem at the user level: they don’t know about the existence of CIFS or NFS. NAS (Network Attached Storage) was born during the PC era and it has seen its time. Enterprise tablets are growing more than PCs and these devices need to access company documents: you need a different and innovative solution “to rule them all”.
The solution could be a next generation “unified storage” with the ability to deal at the same time with PCs and tablets: in practice, instead of thinking about blocks+files, it’s time to think about blocks+files+cloud… or at least files+cloud. In this case cloud means objects.

A damn simple solution!

A private “enterprise dropbox” is already suitable for all enterprises. but if it isn’t integrated with Active Directory and it doesn’t share the same content shared to PCs it’s not a viable solution.
Actually, some vendors are working on this kind of solutions, some more actively than others. End-to-end integrated products and solutions are around the corner, and in all the solutions that I’ve already seen in the last two years the convergence is clear. Object storage is the backend (both in private and public products/services) while, on the front-end, we find different gateways allowing a more and more seamless experience between PCs and tablets. In the end, the user obtains an experience that meets his expectations while the company efficiently maintains a better control on its data.

Bottom line

NAS, as we know it, doesn’t solve our sharing needs anymore as it did in the last decade: it’s necessary to find new and broader solutions. New mobile clients are side by side and soon they’ll outpace traditional PCs. Majority of Enterprise are dealing with this kind of revolution, and if they haven’t yet they will soon. It’s only a matter of time: bye bye, ordinary NAS!