We haven’t talked with a file synch and share vendor in a while now and Matt was interested in the technology. He had been talking with CentreStack, and found that they had been making some inroads in the enterprise. So we contacted S. Azam Ali, VP of Customer Success at CentreStack and asked if he wanted to talk about their product on our podcast.
File synch and share, is part collaboration tool, part productivity tool. With file synch & share many users share the same files, across many different environments and end point devices. It’s especially popular with road warriors that need access to the same files on the road that reside in corporate data centers. With this technology, files updated anywhere would be available to all.
Most file synch&share systems require you to use their storage. But CentreStack just provides synch and share access to NFS and SMB storage that’s already in the data center.
CentreStack doesn’t use VPNs to access data, many other vendor do. But with CentreStack, one just log’s into a website (with AD credentials) and they have immediate browser access to files.
CentreStack uses a gateway VM, that runs in the corporate data center, configured to share files/file directories/shares. We asked whether they were in the data path and Azam said no. However, the gateway does register for file system notifications (e.g. when files are updated, outside CentreStack, they get notified).
CentreStack does maintain meta-data on the files, directories, shares that are under it’s control. Presumably, once an admin sets it up, it goes out and access the file systems that have shared files and populates their meta-data for those files.
CentreStack works with any NFS and SMB file system as well as NAS servers that support these two. It’s unclear whether customers can have more than one gateway server in their data center supporting synch and share but Azam did say that it wasn’t unusual for customers with multi-data centers to have a gateway in each, to support synch&share requirements for each data center.
They use client software on end point devices, which presents the shared files as an external drive (to Mac), presumably a cloud drive for Windows PCs and similar services (in an App) for other systems (IOS, Android phones, iPad, etc.). We believe Azam said Linux was coming soon.
The client software can be configured in cache mode or offline mode:
- Cache mode – the admin can configure how much space to use on the endpoint device and the software will cache the most recently used files in that space for faster access
- Offline mode – the software moves all files that the endpoint login can access, to the device.
In cache mode, when users open a file (not in the most recently used cache), there will be some delay as the system retrieves data from the internet and copies it to the endpoint device. Unclear what the delay might be but it’s probably a function of internet speed and load on the gateway, with possibly some overhead for the NFS/SMB/NAS system to supply the data. If there’s not enough space to hold the file, the oldest non-open file is erased from the cache.
In both modes, Centrestack supports cross domain locking. That is, if one client has a file open (for update), all other systems/endpoints may only access the file in read-only mode. After the file is closed. the file can then be opened for update by other users.
When CentreStack clients are used to update files, the data is stored back in the original file systems with versioning. This way if the data is corrupted, admins can easily return back to a known good copy version.
CentreStack also offers a cloud backup and DR service. Gateway admins can request that synch&share files be backed up to cloud storage (AWS S3, Azure Blob and Wasabi). When CentreStack backups file data to the cloud, it also includes metadata information about the files so they can be re-constituted anywhere.
A CentreStack cloud gateway VM can be activated in the cloud to supply access to backed up files. Unclear whether the CentreStack cloud backup has to be restored to block or file storage first or if it just accesses the data on cloud storage directly. But one customers using CentreStack cloud DR would need to run client software in their applications accessing these files.
Wasabi seemed an odd solution to have on their list of supported cloud storage providers, but Azam said for their market, the economics of Wasabi storage were hard to ignore. See our previous podcast with David Friend, Co-Founder& CEO, Wasabi, to learn more about Wasabi.
CentreStack is licensed on a per user basis, not storage capacity bucking industry trends. But they don’t actually own the storage so it makes sense. For CentreStack cloud backup, customers also have to supply the cloud storage.
They also offer a 30 day free trial on their website with unlimited users. We assume this uses CentreStacks cloud gateway and customers bring their own cloud storage to support it.
The podcast runs about 35 minutes. Azam was a bit more marketing than we are used to, but he warmed up once we started asking questions. Listen to the podcast to learn more.
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S. Azam Ali, VP of Customer Success, CentreStack
S. Azam Ali, is VP of Customer Success at CentreStack and is an executive with extensive experience in managing global teams including sales, support and consulting services.
Azam’s channel experience includes on-boarding new partners including creation of marketing and training collateral for the partners. Azam is an executive with a passion for customer success and establishing long term relationships and partnerships.
Azam is also an advisor to startups as well as established technology companies.