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Spook-clouds ahoy! Panzura cloud storage cleared for restricted data

Goal: Help government agencies trim IT staff

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Panzura's global cloud-storage controller has been cleared to handle restricted data, which should make it easier for the US government to move to private clouds and get rid of IT staff.

Panzura announced on Wednesday that its 1U and 2U physical and virtual "Quicksilver Cloud Storage Controllers" have been certified to Level 1 of the Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2.

"What we supply is a cloud storage controller that allows them to move data into other different clouds," Panzura CEO Randy Chou told The Register. "It allows the customer to [feel] they have unlimited storage in the cloud, but get the feeling of having local storage right next to them."

The technology works by banding together storage from data centers scattered across the world and presenting it as a single global file system on top of whatever public or private storage the customer has.

Panzura's cloud partners include Amazon, Dell, HP, IBM, EMC, Nirvanix, and Google. It can also be used, via its public cloud partners, as a tool for cloud-based data archiving, backup, and disaster recovery.

The system uses a distributed locking architecture to make sure that no two users can have write access to the same file at any one time. Along with this, the CloudFS lets administrators globally implement deduplication, snapshot data protection, namespace updates, and access control. Local systems do the grunt work to avoid performance bottlenecks.

Excluding Nirvanix and Amazon, all these companies have varying levels of FIPS certification. The AWS GovCloud, by example, has FIPS 140-2 certification for components of its GovCloud.

Panzura's government customers tend to use private clouds over public clouds due to data-regulation reasons, Chou indicated, while media or advertising companies are more likely to use the public cloud .

Government is interested: alongside the FIPS 140-2 announcement, Panzura said it had picked up customers including the US Department of Commerce's National Institute for Standards and Technology – the arm of the government which certified Panzure in the first place.

"We wrote them a big check and they wrote us an even larger check," Chou said.

An average, Panzura deals run to around $120,000, and that involves two to three controllers with an average selling price of between $40,000 and $60,000, Chou said. The charge is not tied to the amount of data being run through the system, so the price will be the same "whether a customer is putting a byte, a petabyte, or a hundred petabytes through us," Chou said.

Getting rid of IT staff

Along with letting customers trim their internal storage gear and move to externally-managed private clouds or public clouds, the tech also makes it possible for government departments to fire IT workers — a priority, given the cost pressures all government departments are facing as the US goes crackers about the fiscal cliff, he said.

Chou said that introducing technology like Panzura means the feds can reduce some of its internal IT, which leads to "a movement or reduction of headcount from managing that [infrastructure]."

He indicated that for departments focused on "cost reduction," this made Panzura a tempting prospect.

Before our beloved commentards cry "Shame!" it's worth pointing out that if services like Panzura are successful, then there should be an increase in IT employment at the public and private cloud companies. However, the economics of cloud computing make it unlikely that these new jobs will offset the number lost by a migration to a cloud environment.

Outside government, the number-one motivation for using Panzura can come from other things. "When somebody is thinking of a use case or workload," Chou said, "in that case the use case drives adoption of the cloud as opposed to headcount costs."

By cutting the overall data center hardware footprint, departments that go with Panzura tend to be able to let go of IT workers as well, he said.

Other customers of Panzura include the Department of Justice's Executive Office for US Attorneys, and a "large space research organization." ®

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