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Ctera opens up its storage to third-party analytics via APIs

File system software builds pools of NAS-like storage accessible from anywhere, with APIs to third-party tools to interrogate data for business processes, anomaly detection and more

Israeli file management specialist Ctera doesn’t plan to stop offering cloud storage access as if it were on local network-attached storage (NAS). It has enhanced its offering with application programming interfaces (APIs) to allow third-party tools to search and work with data, in use cases that range from regulatory audits to decision-making processing, via antivirus disinfection.

“In this way we are becoming a supplier of cloud services aimed at business processing of data,” said Ctera CEO Liran Eshel, in an argument reminiscent of NetApp, the heavyweight networked-attached storage supplier that has been positioning itself similarly in cloud storage.

All this came in an interview with Computer Weekly sister site LeMagIT, as part of the recent IT Press Tour to Israel.

Ctera has placed its emphasis on the need to share documents internationally. Its offering puts cloud gateways at each enterprise site and presents them like a NAS with its contents in a single online storage pool.

Ctera’s gateway caches hot data on-premise for fast access, and tiers colder data to cheaper object storage in the cloud, all managed through a global file system.

There are two benefits to this. The key one is that any branch location can access latest versions of documents modified anywhere else, and collaborators and applications can access these documents via SMB, which is well-known, whereas in “traditional” cloud storage object access is usually obligatory.

Ctera isn’t the only one to offer such functionality, with Nasuni, Panzura and Peer playing a very similar space.

Third-party suppliers needed for high-level functionality

To go from simple cloud storage to more sophisticated services requires efforts Ctera alone can’t provide. Around the APIs developed by Ctera, the kind of functionality envisaged will come courtesy of third parties.

“As far as we are concerned, we supply infrastructure functionality, such as backup, replication and immutable hosting,” said Aron Brands, technical director at Ctera. “But also the Ctera Insight console, which allows visualisation of file activity and puts a spotlight on activities that deviate from normal functioning.”

An example of a partnership with a third party is Varonis, the data security and analytics provider that Ctera linked up with in 2021.

“Varonis has functionality that can analyse data and identify sensitive content,” said Brands. “In practice, you have to be a Varonis customer already. From now, all you need to do is provide Ctera account details to Varonis, and it will find the S3 storage where your data is stored and inspect it.”

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Technically, the true innovation on the part of Ctera rests on it furnishing metadata and logs from data it stores and opening these up to third-party processing.

From the customer point-of-view, the offer doesn’t really change. The Ctera NAS gateway is still deployed as a virtual machine with the supplier recommending that customers dedicate a hyper-converged node to it to provide local cache. In all the case studies presented by Ctera, its customers used Cisco Hyperflex hyper-converged nodes.

According to Brands, Ctera’s APIs can be programmatically written into languages and protocols that include Python, Ansible, REST, S3, ICAP and WebDAV.

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