The problem with desktops is that they need a desk to be on top of. There are many people who trudge wearily to work each day who find that a solace: where else would they hang the note with their password on? Yet, increasingly there are those who judge the trudge too weary: for a better work/life  balance, to reduce office space requirements, because it is better to go face-to-face with customers or quite frankly, you don’t want to work with beige any more.

True, desktop virtualisation can offer a solution here. A virtualised desktop can, to an extent, free you from your PC. Yet flexibility is not just about “being in the office, or not” it is about using an end-device that is appropriate to what you are doing; where you are at. To achieve what needs to be done you don’t necessarily need a Microsoft Windows desktop. You need access to your data, or your team’s data, your customer data. There are a number of solutions to available to let you access that data, regardless of your device. Dropbox, obviously, and a multitude such as  Box.Net, Oxygen, SpiderOak, ShareFile and Sugarsync.

To this list we can now add RES Software. RES  Software have announced the availability of RES HyperDrive, which has been designed to offer a secure way to deliver “follow-me-data” and file-sharing with enterprise-class security. Not that unusual for sure, but RES HyperDrive is cloud based technology offered as an on-premise service with a pay-as-you-go licensing.

Follow-me-data as a concept is surely well-served. Pure cloud services offer elasticity for storage and availability, and can be very quick to set-up. What does RES HyperDrive offer your organisation and how does that technology fit into a RES Software’s portfolio?

The Personal Cloud

Personal Cloud is emerging as a new phase of personal computing. The personal cloud over time will displace the PC as the location where users keep their personal content, access their services, and personal preferences and centre their digital lives. Users will use a collection of devices, with the PC remaining one of many options, but no one device will be the primary hub.  Rather, the personal cloud will take on that role.  Access to the cloud and the content stored or shared from the cloud will be managed and secured, rather than focusing solely on the device. As we mentioned in our article Building the Personal Cloud, to put it simply; a personal cloud provides access to my stuff wherever it is, wherever I am, on whatever device I have to hand.

That may be a great vision but how does that help solve corporate issues today?

File Sharing: Where is your data?

A problem of consumerisation for businesses is that your user’s work related business data isn’t theirs. Your business has a duty of care – to your customers, to shareholders, to your existence to keep your data safe and be compliant with regulations.  Many IT departments are rightly nervous about having corporate data stored in external cloud-based datacenters. Of course, you could use some sort of SSL-VPN file share/Microsoft Sharepoint solution to provide remote access to your file share resources. You could email the big files. While these solutions provide access, they are cumbersome for ‘synchronisation’. More importantly, once the data has been synchronised – how is it secured and maintained on the endpoint?

There is a conflict here – users want to be able to share data. Many businesses have regulatory constraints that prevent them from using cloud based file sharing services.

RES HyperDrive: On-Premise File Sharing for the Enterprise

RES HyperDrive leverages the security of enterprise on-premises infrastructure, but is easily accessed through Outlook, Windows Explorer, Mac Finder or a web browser, on any combination of corporate or personal hardware. A simple application interface connects users to their Android, iOS (iPhone, iPad), Windows and Blackberry devices, so sharing data across the organisation and with selected business partners is no longer a potential nightmare. RES HyperDrive also features remote wipe capability to ensure that IT retains the ultimate control of business data – even on remote devices.

Architecture

The core component will be a virtual appliance that can sit on hypervisors ESX, XenServer and Hyper-V. The appliance will manage user access and web-client provision, integration with Active Directory and access to storage. You are able to host a number of appliances for availability and load. However, there is no automated load balancing function

Storage can be from a selection of what you have now – LAN based file shares, SAN storage, NAS storage. Indeed – there would be little to prevent you using cloud based storage – but with greater control over which users and data use the off-premise storage. You point the appliance at the storage and away you go.

Features

So what goes into RES HyperDrive?

  • File Security:  file encryption is on the end device and controlled by an agent that uses 256-bit encryption. The files in the central store remain unencrypted. RES have licensed TheftGuard to ensure that remote files and folders can be destroyed if required. The synchronisation process gives you automated backups although, as yet there is no file versioning facility.
  • Ad-Hoc File Sharing: using a FileLink/FolderLink enables your users to send emails via Outlook with a link to a large file rather than the large file itself, handy for those organisations having attachment limits.  Optionally, links can be protected with passwords, expiration dates and number of downloads giving you a greater visibility of who is accessing your data, and keeping your files in a file-store rather than your email. There is also a Team HyperDrive function allowing work teams to share files and collaborate.
  • Access Anywhere: as with a number of other solutions, RES offers agents for Windows, Macs, Android, Blackberry, iPhone/iPads, Windows phones as well as a web interface.
  • Smart Syncing:  the agent makes the RES HyperDrive folder appear as a drive on your PC -so synchronisation is simply a drag and drop. Only the changed portions of file are synchronised to optimise performance and bandwidth and smart filtering can be used to exclude specific files if necessary. What I’d like to see from these type of solutions is an option to have some intelligence of what network connection you are using.

Licensing

RES Software have a goal to have their products licensed on a pay-as-you-go mode: and HyperDrive will be licensed in this way. Guide prices will be around at the $5/€5 per user mark. The appliance servers will collate usage information, then allow billing to take to take place – either automatically via the internet, or in a staged report/bill for environment not directly attached to the web. There are plans to introduce a ‘team’ pricing model geared to workgroups and shared data but no pricing guide is available for this at the time of writing.

This appears to pitch RES Hyperdrive at the same price point as similar cloud services. However – bear in mind that cloud based services will also include the delivery and servicing of the storage. That said, for many they’ve already invested in that storage: and this an access method to existing resources. However, what you may need to put in place is improved internet links – many business have web connections that are focused on download speed, not upload. Introducing this service may well have start-up and connection costs. Still, this environment likely offers an option that just could not simply be done in the cloud.

Special Relationship?

RES have a very strong relationship with Citrix and Microsoft, you may be thinking that RES Hyerprive is going to ruffle a few feathers. RES have worked closely with both their partners before bringing this release to market. Interestingly, RES Software have licensed their technology to others before: Citrix licensed RES’s reverse seamless technology for instance.

This is going to be a busy market. Where RES has an advantage over newer players in that RES have an established channel market who can help promote and maintain the environment. There is also the benefit that HyperDrive fits into RES’ existing Automation Manager pieces good not only for RES customers, but for RES in terms of introducing new customers to what it is that RES Software do.

RES Software, the ones to be saying “follow-me”

With HyperDrive, RES Software’s are offering an on-premise way to share files on the go for enterprise users: for many this offers an easier and likely more compliant method of ensuring that users (and customers) get access to their data.

Yes, it will require you to manage your own servers, yes your own storage, yes your own network connectivity and yes the only nod to “cloud solution” is the “pay as you go” license model. But your users want access to their data, not for you to have a full cloud solution. Your CFO needs a viable solution with managed costs.

Citrix understand this and invested in Sharefile, but Sharefile is not on-premise: yet. VMWare understand this and perhaps Octopus will be an interesting solution; when it is released.

RES Software are focused on helping automate the workspace environment. Not “desktops” – “the workspace”. There may be a great deal of hype around hosted desktops offering centralised access, but for many the core requirement is access to their data.

Is it without failings? Of course not: what product is? From an architecture point you need to consider your available bandwidth; some functions are missing from some clients (e.g. off-line caching on mobile clients due to the limitations of the mobile client), and some functions (like version control) didn’t make this initial release. But, there are a number of companies who would love to see a “corporate DropBox” in place. RES HyperDrive offers such a service: importantly in a model and architecture that has its basis in cloud, but with a delivery mechanism that is can be delivered and managed from corporate IT. Ultimately, it will be interesting to see if all vendors in this space can offer the ability for users to aggregate their file sharing solutions. The architecture of the RES HyperDrive appliance and client configuration could offer such a facility.

RES are joining a crowded party in terms of offering a file sharing solution but they’ve brought a very decent bottle of wine that they took some time thinking over rather than whatever was cheap and available in the store. As it stands solution can span a range of end-devices be they VDI, desktop or a hybrid and at an interesting price point. RES Hyperdrive is very much worthy of consideration to help you manage data delivery to your end-device estate.

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Andrew Wood (144 Posts)

Andrew is a Director of Gilwood CS Ltd, based in the North East of England, which specialises in delivering and optimising server and application virtualisation solutions. With 12 years of experience in developing architectures that deliver server based computing implementations from small-medium size business to global enterprise solutions, his role involves examining emerging technology trends, vendor strategies, development and integration issues, and management best practices.

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