UPDATED 17:28 EDT / MAY 15 2013

Rethinking IT for End Users : How NetApp Evolved Traditional Storage Security for BYOD

The consumerization of IT has made its mark on the enterprise in the form of BYOD, and that’s led to a healthy debate over where the responsibility of mobile security lies: with the IT department or the end-user?  The trend has also driven demand for more software-led solutions within IT and across every other department at an organization, with things like data visualization and interface design taking precedent more than ever.

This has all presented some interesting challenges for traditional IT vendors, but many are handling the transition with vigor and resolve.  NetApp, a storage vendor known for identifying the right trends and partners to survive decades of IT evolution, is extending its services to end users in the enterprise.  It’s something NetApp’s never really had to do before, as its products have typically been accessible only to IT administrators.

So with the launch of NetApp Connect, the storage company takes on a whole new set of objectives in considering the consumer, and I got a chance to interview Nick Triantos, senior director for Mobile Solutions at NetApp, about the process of designing a tool for end users in the workplace.  Read the full exchange below:

What’s the biggest challenge you faced when creating a mobile interface for this launch?

The fact that there’s an interface is, in and of itself, probably the biggest challenge. Most NetApp products are only visible to IT administrators, who are used to having all of the knobs and controls they need to customize the software to work the way they want. End users, on the other hand, have become accustomed to beautiful, approachable, fun applications running on their mobile devices. We needed to design NetApp Connect to meet those needs for the end users, combining the best consumer mobile experience, while maintaining enterprise governance of data enterprise IT organizations look to NetApp to provide.

Where BYOD is concerned, where should the focus on security lie: the IT department, or the end-user?

Security ought to be in the hands of IT. Mobile employees, such as salespeople, field technicians, and executives, shouldn’t need to configure anything to work securely. By keeping everything in control of IT, a customer can ensure that all of their employees follow the rules. That said, there are some approaches to enterprise mobility that try to secure too much of how I use my device. It shouldn’t matter to IT if I want to play a game, watch a video, or keep pictures of my kids on my mobile device. If a security solution is too heavy-handed, and ends up interfering with my personal use of the device, odds are good that employees will find ways to work around it.

We designed NetApp Connect with this as one of our primary design criteria: secure enterprise data, without worrying about securing the rest of how someone uses their device. To get it right, you really need to think about the whole product design very differently. We used a “containerized” approach with NetApp Connect, in which the NetApp Connect app functions just like any other app on the iPhone or iPad, but it’s a highly manageable solution that creates a secure container on the mobile device, keeping IT in control of the corporate information inside at all times. This approach eliminates many common device-management, BYOD, and corporate compliance concerns. It also gives IT a newlevel of control over users and their corporate data to maintain existing rules and policies and to easily customize user access to grant the right information to the right person on the right device at the right time.

How has the consumerization of IT impacted NetApp’s business direction & product line-up when it comes to security at the storage level?

It used to be that companies would mandate a single way for their employees to get their work done. Everyone ran the same operating system, on the same model of laptop or desktop, and we all had the same licenses to the same apps. As people are now bringing smartphones, tablets, and personal laptops into the workplace, the kinds of applications being run has grown dramatically. On one hand, mobile, the cloud, and other emerging trends in IT are quite significant in how applications are delivered, and so how NetApp provides value to our customers. Fortunately, though, we’ve architected Data ONTAP to handle the widest possible variety of workloads, and to be as agile as possible to meet changing business needs.

There is a related result of the consumerization of IT that affects security quite dramatically, though. The myriad of new apps being brought into the workplace often results in corporate data being copied  to unsecured mobile devices, USB thumb drives, and cloud systems. All of this data has become the newest target for hackers, ranging from two kids with a computer, to foreign government-sanctioned espionage. Fortunately, many of the core capabilities that NetApp has always provided around security and data integrity in Data ONTAP are leveraged here. And now, with products like NetApp Connect, we’re able to extend our passion for security and data integrity out to mobile end users, where and when they need access to corporate data.

The most significant way mobile has changed your business?

It’s a little early to say, of course, but it’s clear that mobile is pervasive and how we get work done as employees here at NetApp is rapidly evolving to accommodate changes such as mobile. Right now we’re seeing a rapid influx of mobile devices in the workplace from smart phones to tablets because the way employees manage their work is changing. Mobile workers expect they can be productive anywhere, anytime, with any device: their own or corporate issued. While this brings convenience and productivity to individual employees, it also creates a wave of panic for corporate IT organizations, as sensitive data and files are moving to public clouds by users breaking compliance guidelines with non-secure solutions. As a result, many enterprises are forced into weighing the reduced IT costs and increased productivity benefits of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies against the risks of corporate data leakage and compliance violations that often occur with unsecured public cloud offerings.

With the introduction of NetApp Connect, we now have the ability to provide enterprises with secure, instant, and easy mobile-device access to corporate data stored on NetApp storage without changing the data or the security infrastructure. Our customers no longer need to make a trade-off between securing their business and realizing the value of the connected, global enterprise.


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