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Nexsan Assureon appliance solves security, business continuity and compliance issues.

Special-purpose appliances have traditionally been deployed to solve specific storage problems. Backup appliances, virtualization appliances and, more recently, security appliances provide simple and limited functionality.

With its new Assureon appliance, Nexsan has kept the simplicity of the appliance model, but has crammed a variety of capabilities into a single, scalable, easy-to-administer storage solution.

Nexsan announced the Assureon as a storage security appliance, but it is much more than that. Designed as a secondary storage repository for fixed-content data, Assureon is a security, ILM, business continuity and regulatory compliance solution.

Assureon is based on a Content Addressable Storage platform with single instance store, ensuring that only one copy of any unique file is stored, regardless of how many individual users save the same file. In some cases CAS-based hash algorithms have proven to be unreliable, causing inadvertent deletion of non-duplicated files. Assureon eliminates this problem by using dual hashing algorithms to create the unique CAS address.

The Assureon architecture enables performance and capacity to be scaled independently to meet specific customer requirements. Processing nodes are deployed in a clustered configuration with the base model composed of four nodes, along with 8 TB of SATA disk capacity. Storage capacity can be further scaled with externally attached storage, such as Nexsan's ATAbeast and SATAboy storage arrays and the total capacity managed by Assureon can scale to multiple petabytes. Assureon also supports removable optical disk and tape storage.

Assureon's data retention and disposition functionality provides simple, secure storage to meet regulatory compliance requirements. Administrators can easily set file retention criteria for individual files or groups of files along with file encryption. Assureon uses 256-bit AES encryption to protect files stored on local Assureon storage, remotely replicated disk or on removable optical disk and tape media. To ensure optimal data security and integrity, every file is assigned a unique encryption key. Additionally, the Assureon system continually monitors and audits the data to verify that all files are intact. Assureon assigns a global unique serial number to each file and the contents must match a checksum comparison to pass the audit. If the system finds an error, it automatically repairs the damaged or modified file from replicated data.

To meet compliance demands, such as HIPAA's privacy requirements, when the retention period expires on files that are protected through Assureon's WORM disk functions, a crypto-shredding process destroys the encryption key, ensuring that acces to the data is completly disabled. Crypto-shredding can be enabled down to the individual file level, including files stored on tape, a capability unique to Assureon.

Data security and integrity are further enhanced with Nexsan's hardened RAID code that prevents the deletion of a RAID set once Assureon has established retention parameters for any files stored on that RAID set.

In addition to the security and compliance capabilities, Assureon also addresses the need for business continuity. Mirrored storage combined with remote replication provides a robust business continuity solution but such an architecture is cost-prohibitive for many businesses. Nexsan solves this problem with a unique approach to replication.

Assureon supports asynchronous remote replication, protecting against a major site disaster. But it also eliminates an issue that can severely impact a business: the data restoration window. Other CAS-based solutions store data in a proprietary format; making data access or recovery impossible without going through a proprietary API. All data protected by Assureon is stored in native file format and can be accessed though the native file system. In the event of the failure of primary storage, applications can failover to Assureon storage without the need to perform a data restoration process, allowing an operation to maintain continuous data availability.

With all of its other capabilities, Assureon also provides the tools for ILM. When content is placed under management by Assureon, it classifies the data and then provides options for managing protection, archiving, access and deletion for the full lifecycle of the data.
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Author:Murphy, Dan
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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