Panzura partners with AWS on ransomware counter-measures

Panzura might have slipped beneath the waves, but it’s come back reinvigorated, and now boasts integration with AWS with ransomware protection and Outposts hardware

Cloud NAS and global file system provider Panzura is back, and it has teamed up with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide immutable backups. In case of ransomware attack, this allows the replacement of targeted data by duplicates held intact in AWS.

AWS is pleased to have found a way to secure critical operations. “We have never had such an opportunity to show the usefulness of our cloud offer to sectors that have very high compliance and security needs,” said Howard Wright, responsible for new projects at AWS.

Meanwhile, the operating principle of Panzura’s CloudFS remains that same. That is, that NAS hardware deployed on-site at each branch office sends file blocks modified on its drives in real time to the cloud. A controller in the cloud provides each NAS with a list of shared files across the enterprise with pointers to the most recent blocks. It retains copies of older blocks elsewhere that are only available as reads.

When a branch location wants to work on a file created by another, its local NAS downloads all the blocks it needs from the cloud. If the cloud detects that blocks have been corrupted, it points to replacement blocks from longer ago that are healthy.

The novelty is in the better integration with three AWS products: storage of old and new blocks in S3 object mode; use of artificial intelligence (AI) to identify corrupted blocks; and use of Outposts hyper-converged infrastructure as local NAS. Use of Outposts hardware at each site allows for efficient end-to-end encryption.

To this is added Panzura Data Services, which comprises recent developments that allow enterprises to see where their files are located, their access history and to what point they are protected, and to where it is possible to roll back to.

Although there is cooperation with AWS, CloudFS is not tied to use in its public cloud and can work with others. 

Panzura returns after concerns for its future

For Panzura – which dates back to 2008 – the link-up with AWS to target large accounts is a return to grace that some thought may not happen. In 2020, the company sold its assets to an investment fund, Profile Capital Management, and there were fears it may have disappeared, but this didn’t come to pass.

“The pitfalls that Panzura saw before its sale were not technological, but psychological,” said Jill Stelfox, the new CEO of the company, during a recent interview as part of the IT Press Tour with Computer Weekly’s French sister site, LeMagIT.

“Panzura’s customers are in finance, research centres, the energy sector, those that develop medicines, and that have to analyse data taken from other sites,” she said. “These are enterprises that handle sensitive data and who in the past had no confidence in the cloud.”

Read more about cloud NAS

The description of its customers that Stelfox outlines is not that of Panzura before it threw in the towel. According to observers back then, Panzura didn’t have the credibility to address large accounts or a presence internationally that allowed file sharing between distant locations. Stelfox, with credibility in the finance sector, has convinced banks to use Panzura.

“We saw that the company had true potential,” said Stelfox. “We went to the banks and explained that the solution allowed auditing of everything that happens. We told them they were no longer dealing with a vendor that offered technical support in case of a problem but of a services company with centres of excellence put in place internationally. And so, in two years, turnover grew by 485%.” 

A product oriented to the audit

As it presents itself to customers, Panzura is not just a software producer but a services company that connects remote branches, commercialises a range of functions connected to data security, and allows for rollback to different points and restoration to previous versions.

The technology layer remains the historic CloudFS NAS system. But on top of that, Panzura has developed a console more in line with the expectations of enterprise customers.

“Compared with the old CloudFS we have given the admin dashboard more intuitive functionality and audit modules,” said Mike Johnson, director of software engineering. “The system can also exactly interpret each user’s activity and understand issues faced. Previously, the console – called Vision – only presented a graphic inventory of files. Now, it’s a complete data management application.”

“The reason we’ve developed this console is that the CIOs [chief information officers] we encounter are paralysed by the fear of never knowing which version of their files are in which locations,” said Johnson.

The console is also extended with the development of tools that put into practice functionality that includes: an app that manages the security and confidentiality of data; a tool called Company Connect that can share documents outside CloudFS; the Panzura Protect monitoring app, which analyses cyber-attacks; and a search engine based on file metadata.

Panzura has three main competitors in the cloud NAS space, while Nasuni also targets large enterprises.

Hammerspace is more focused on media sector customers with studios across the globe, and Ctera addresses the needs of remote workers.

Read more on Storage performance

Data Center
Data Management