I had the opportunity to speak to Aaron Ganek about Cloudtenna and their DirectSearch product recently and thought I’d share some thoughts here. Cloudtenna recently announced $4M in seed funding, have Citrix as a key strategic partner, and are shipping a beta product today. Their goal is “[b]ringing order to file chaos!”.
Ganek told me that there are three major issues with file management and the plethora of collaboration tools used in the modern enterprise:
- Search is too much effort
- Security tends to fall through the cracks
- Enterprise IT is dangerously non-compliant
Most of these collaboration tools are geared up for search, because people don’t tend to remember where they put files, or what they’ve called them. So you might have some files in your corporate Box account, and some in Dropbox, and then some sitting in Confluence. The problem with trying to find something is that you need to search each application individually. According to Cloudtenna, this:
- Wastes time;
- Leads to frustration; and
- Often yields poor results.
Security also becomes a problem when you have multiple storage repositories for corporate files.
- There are too many apps to manage
- It’s difficult to track users across applications
- There’s no consolidated audit trail
As a result of this, enterprises find themselves facing exposure to litigation, primarily because they can’t answer these questions:
- Who accessed what?
- When and from where?
- What changed?
As some of my friends like to say “people die from exposure”.
Cloudtenna – The DirectSearch Solution
Enter DirectSearch. At its core it’s a SaaS offering that
- Catalogues file activity across disparate data silos; and
- Delivers machine learning services to mitigate the “chaos”.
Basically you point it at all of your data repositories and you can then search across all of those from one screen. The cool thing about the catalogue is not just that it tracks metadata and leverages full-text indexing, it also tracks user activity. It supports a variety of on-premises, cloud and SaaS applications (6 at the moment, 16 by September). You only need to login once and there’s full ACL support – so users can only see what they’re meant to see.
According to Ganek, it also delivers some pretty fast search results, in the order of 400 – 600ms.
[image courtesy of Cloudtenna]
I was interested to know a little more about how the machine learning could identify files that were being worked on by people in the same workgroup. Ganek said they didn’t rely on Active Directory group membership, as these were often outdated. Instead, they tracked file activity to create a “Shadow IT organisational chart” that could be used to identify who was collaborating on what, and tailor the search results accordingly.
Thoughts and Further Reading
I’ve spent a good part of my career in the data centre providing storage solutions for enterprises to host their critical data on. I talk a lot about data and how important it is to the business. I’ve worked at some established companies where thousands of files are created every day and terabytes of data is moved around. Almost without fail, file management has been a pain in the rear. Whether I’ve been using Box to collaborate, or sending links to files with Dropbox, or been stuck using Microsoft Teams (great for collaboration but hopeless from a management perspective), invariably files get misplaced or I find myself firing up a search window to try and track down this file or that one. It’s a mess because we don’t juts work from a single desktop and carefully curated filesystem any more. We’re creating files on mobile devices, emailing them about, and gathering data from systems that don’t necessarily play well on some platforms. It’s a mess, but we need access to the data to get our jobs done. That’s why something like Cloudtenna has my attention. I’m looking forward to seeing them progress with the beta of DirectSearch, and I have a feeling they’re on to something pretty cool with their product. You can also read Rich’s thoughts on Cloudtenna over at the Gestalt IT website.