Cloud Computing Outlook

StrongBox Data Solutions: Future of Data Storage and Management

CIO VendorDavid Cerf, CEO One of the biggest problems faced by all industries is how to balance long-term data protection with the need to control costs, reduce complexity for IT staff, and ensure that users are able to easily find and use the data at any time, from anywhere. With a growing proliferation of storage solutions today, it is often very difficult to take advantage of the right technology for all phases of the data’s lifecycle. The storage requirements for handling production data are different than those for archives, or remote collaboration.

The problem is how to create the optimum mix of flash, disk, object, or cloud storage to fulfil business requirements without creating additional management overhead, or impacting user experience. Multi-tiered storage solutions typically only work within the vendor's file system or platform. This means customers get locked into proprietary technologies, and are unable to easily add new storage types.

The simple fact is that data almost always lives longer than the storage it is housed initially. Which means this is not a storage problem alone, but is really a data management problem. The problem is, how to extend existing storage resources to the cloud, or enable offsite data preservation, as well the flexibility to seamlessly, and easily add any existing storage technology to meet business requirements.

For years, Fujifilm’s Dternity has set a standard for long-term data protection and curation. The Dternity Media Cloud (DMC)—a data preservation storage solution coming straight out of Fujifilm’s innovation lab, powered by the StrongBox LTFS NAS—makes one of the most cost effective cloud storage options for enterprises today.

“For the last eight years, we have been the ‘Intel inside’ for Fujifilm’s Dternity,” said David Cerf, CEO, StrongBox Data Solutions (SDS). “Our solutions drive Fujifilm’s Dternity Media Cloud (DMC), enabling end-to-end management of both data and storage resources for data centers and the cloud, providing complete data protection and reduced storage costs.

The power of the Dternity offering has now moved to the next level with the introduction of StrongLink, a next-generation data management solution designed to automate data life-cycle management, and seamlessly extend on-premise storage to the cloud. StrongLink bridges incompatible storage silos and empowers customers to automate management of their data while still using existing storage infrastructure, or seamlessly incorporating any flash, disk, object or cloud storage solution from any vendor.

StrongLink creates a logical abstraction of the physical storage and aggregates multiple storage silos into a global namespace. “By combining Artificial Intelligence (AI) with policy-based workflow engines, we automate data management across heterogeneous storage and different file systems to simplify storage management and reduce storage costs,” said Cerf.

Cognitive Data Management

StrongLink takes a data-centric approach, leveraging the power of metadata from almost any file or object—or even from multiple incompatible file systems—to create an aggregated management framework tuned to customer use cases. This provides an ‘intelligent roadmap’ for automating data and storage management without needing to alter the existing workflows for users and applications.

For the last eight years, we have been the ‘Intel inside’ for Fujifilm’s Dternity Media Cloud


In addition to file system metadata, other rich metadata can also be harvested from file headers or contents, and users can even add custom metadata. These multiple metadata types are combined by the StrongLink cognitive data management engine, creating unlimited options on how users can automate complex workflows, simplify data life cycle management, or create a global file system across disparate storage types, including cloud services.

“Metadata creates a detailed picture of all existing data in every silo and storage location,” said Cerf. “In this way, namespaces can be virtualized to present all or selected parts of the datasets according to user permissions or use case, in addition to having rich contextual information about the data,” he said.

Powered by StrongLink, Dternity enables administrators to implement sophisticated data lifecycle policies to precisely manage data placement and data protection strategies at a granular level, even down to the individual file. “This allows organizations to organize, search, manage, access, analyze, protect, and control their data, regardless of the storage system. Whether on flash, disk, tape, or cloud, storage management and optimization is simplified and driven automatically by policies defined by our customer’s business requirements. This innovative new technology is part of a Cognitive Data Management methodology,” said Cerf.

The functions of storage resource management, storage service management, and data management are integrated into a unified platform for orchestrating data access across the entire enterprise. In addition to automated data placement/migration policies, administrators are able to manage multiple instances of a file across any local or remote storage types for redundancy, disaster recovery, or to enable remote collaboration and accessibility.

“Through Dternity we provide powerful automation tools for both users and system administrators to actively manage all their data, as well as their underlying storage infrastructure,” said Cerf.

A Blend of Economy and Performance

Another core capability that differentiates Dternity is the fact that the DMC is specifically designed for long-term data preservation. “The DMC’s service-level agreements are very unique, being specifically tailored for data curation and to meet compliance and governance requirements for long-term data retention and simplified retrieval,” said Cerf.

“At its core, the DMC protects data on secure Fujifilm barium ferrite tape technology using industry-standard Linear Tape File System (LTFS) format,” said Peter Faulhauber, President of Fujifilm Recording Media U.S.A., Inc., who directs the Dternity business. “Our focus is on ensuring data is protected for the long term without being trapped in any proprietary format. It is our customer’s data, and our job is to make sure it is always accessible, whether today, or 30 years from now.”

LTFS is designed so that data may be easily accessible, and even transported outside of the system. This is possible because each tape is self-describing based upon the LTFS standard, so it may be removed from the archive and put in any LTFS-supported platform and easily accessed. All data is also periodically checked for data integrity, and to guard against bit rot. No vendor lock-in. No single point of failure. This is ideal for long-term data retention, disaster recovery and cloud storage.

By virtualizing flash, disk, and cloud, Dternity delivers the perfect blend of economy and performance in one simple solution.
“When customers put their data into the DMC, the system writes at least two copies on different LTFS media for data protection,” said Cerf. “Then, if the customer ever wants to pull their data back, they are able to do so via a simple online tool,” he added.

"By virtualizing flash, disk, and cloud, Dternity delivers the perfect blend of economy, security, and performance in one simple solution"

Since StrongLink is data-aware, it is also able to optimize storage resources and improve storage utilization across on-premise primary storage as well as integration into cloud services, such as the DMC or other Cloud offerings. StrongLink’s AI engine provides administrators with automation for predictive analytics to enable proactive migrations, capacity planning, and utilization reporting.

Dternity ensures that data is always available and accessible. And because the system can seamlessly incorporate deep archiving, it also ensures the lowest cost for long-term preservation of data. Furthermore, since StrongLink supports standard file/object protocols (SMB/CIFS, NFS, S3 and RESTful API, etc.), it means that users can access their archive data via the same protocols they are already accustomed to for production data.

“It is very common for competing products in the market today to charge per gigabyte to transfer data,” said Cerf. “This means that not only are customers paying to store their digital assets, but they are also penalized with an additional charge every time they access their data,” he added.

“By enabling our customers with this level of flexibility and forward planning to keep costs predictable, this means that data protection and archiving are both painless and cost optimized.” Cerf said.

An Immaculate “Data-Safe”

Data is the life-blood of every organization, but protection and accessibility also need to be cost effective.

“Companies with a single site who want to protect their data offsite can easily copy content to the DMC to protect their information from localized data disasters,” said Cerf. “The data is hosted in Fujifilm’s secure facility, where they tightly control access and chain-of-custody.”

Additionally, the StrongLink system includes multiple data integrity checks, audit trails, versioning and other data protection capabilities to assist administrators to globally protect all data under management. What makes this even better is Fujifilm’s Data Recovery services. Whether an organization needs to recover data for operations, to support litigation, or compliance purposes, Fujifilm has the expertise to find and migrate what they need from all types of storage media.

“The whole focus is to make data management and data protection simple and secure,” said Cerf. “Dternity is unique in its ability to give customers the choice to tailor a data management strategy to match their business needs, and without being locked into a particular vendor or technology.

Dternity is advancing with state of the art on ways to data management and reduce storage costs. So what lies ahead for the SDS? Cerf said, “Most companies today have a mandate to consider cloud, and our mission is to simplify storage even further, and make cloud seamless to use.”