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Global element locking is primarily aimed at users of Autodesk Revit 3-D design software in architectural, engineering and construction firms, a sector that accounts for roughly half of Panzura's revenue. The enhancement enables users in multiple places to access the same storage and read or write to different file elements simultaneously.
File locking also helps with other multi-user applications, such as Microsoft Excel, where users may work on the same file simultaneously. Panzura always allowed users to work on the same file if they were in the same office and used the same storage, but element locking extends those capabilities to distributed sites.
Panzura's 2U Quicksilver Cloud Storage Controller appliance is a NAS interface that connects users in different parts of the world through its global file system and public cloud storage. People on distributed work teams can access and rapidly share small portions of a Revit-based model. The feature prevents users from overwriting each other's data to shared cloud storage.
"If you're designing a power tool, you may have 500 different modifiable parts, and each one is an editable element. With 50 or 80 elements, you could have a different file for each. But when you have hundreds or thousands of parts, the process becomes completely unmanageable from a storage-networking perspective," Panzura CEO Randy Chou said.
Controller code rewritten to separate metadata, storage
Software-based workflow monitors have been added to the Panzura Operating System, giving AutoDesk Revit users real-time status and activity reports on which portions of a file are being worked on by other team members.
Panzura rewrote portions of code to boost network messaging and data consistency. The focus was to separate metadata from storage and enable messages to be sent sequentially across distributed pipes.
"Reliability and data consistency have to always be present on the storage side. If you lose one data-consistency element, you lose data, and that's obviously not acceptable," Chou said.
Evolution from gateway provider to primary storage
Panzura is trying to shake its image as a purveyor solely of cloud gateways. In July, the vendor made its virtual cloud gateway available as a free download, along with 2 TB of free Google Cloud storage for one year. It's a move analysts say is intended to induce customers to purchase its more feature-rich Quicksilver appliance.
Panzura competitor Nasuni Corp. introduced global file locking for multisite collaboration in its UniFS file system in July. Nasuni followed it up in September with version 6.2 of its Nasuni Service with enhanced work-sharing support.
Chou said Panzura has noticed a significant uptick in users moving to public cloud storage over the past 18 months. The vendor supports Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Computing, HP Cloud Services and Microsoft Azure public cloud storage. EMC resells Panzura storage as part of its EMC Atmos Cloud Storage Platform, which sits in AT&T data centers.
"The first conversation I used to have with a CIO used to be: 'Oh I think I'm going to stick with private cloud for five to 10 years.' Now that conversation doesn't even come up," Chou said.
Dave Simpson, a senior storage analyst at 451 Research, said element locking helps Panzura assert itself as a contender in the cloud storage market.
"These guys don't want to go up against Microsoft, EMC and Amazon with just a simple gateway, which is just a protocol translator and pretty straightforward. You either need it or you don't," Simpson said. "The ability to lock elements gives them an added level of granularity. The ability to do it globally across distributed sites is key."
Until about three years ago, Panzura storage largely was used for secondary copy data for backups and archiving. Chou said that is no longer the case. "Our customers use us 100% for primary storage. We have 10,000 snapshots globally, so backup and archiving is basically transparent."
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