Hifn CTO Outlines Strategy

Compression and security go hand-in-glove, says CTO, and OEM deals are ramping

May 19, 2007

3 Min Read
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Russell Dietz, VP and CTO of Hifn, has been holding forth on the issues of data compression and security for years. Lately, though, his audience has grown -- and gotten more storage-oriented.

"Hifn has been in the storage and networking space for some time, leveraging what's been going on in the storage and data reduction areas as well as dealing with security," Dietz says. Hifn's tape compression technology, for instance, has been deployed by Quantum and other tape suppliers since 1996. Hifn has followed over the years with semiconductor products in security, data compression, data acceleration, and IP SANs. (See Hifn Targets iSCSI Security, Hifn Ships Compressor, Hifn Samples Security Processors, Hifn Intros Acceleration Boards, and Hifn Unveils VTL Board.)

Figure 1: Russell Dietz, CTO, Hifn

Lately, the shift has been toward combining these technologies for enterprise storage. "In the early stages, compression was about getting the backup window closed and saving on [tape] cartridges. What we're seeing now is a huge push on what would happen if storage -- aka disks themselves -- didn't cost anything," Dietz says.

"We have a paradigm where we expect to store and get things back anytime we want. That, on top of all the requirements that the government has put on why information has to be stored... Hifn saw an opportunity to go back and help people with storage reduction again in a different way."Hifn's focus has been increasingly on storage OEMs, starting with the VTL space, where it's signed Falconstor and Sepaton in recent deals. (See Hifn Hops In and Sepaton, Hifn Partner.) The company also has many unannounced OEMs, including Cisco, which uses Hifn boards in storage switch replication modules, and NeoScale, which deploys its security processors. "We haven't announced all our relationships, but all of the significant vendors in the storage space use our products," Dietz maintains.

More partnerships like these will be key to the future of Hifn as it shifts into a combined storage/compression strategy. De-duplication will also be added to the mix at a later time, Dietz says.

The combination of data reduction and security is a technical necessity, Dietz asserts. "If you're going to reduce data, that has to be the same place you're going to secure that data. Data reduction obscures the data; encryption randomizes it. So if you encrypt first, you randomize the data and de-duplication won't work and neither will compression. This actually creates a window of opportunity for us," Dietz says.

Dietz's window opens onto switch OEMs, which he thinks increasingly will incorporate encryption into their wares. "We'll see encryption in switches. I think you'll see Cisco starting to use encryption as an authentication mechanism and in storage as a method of securing data that's going into replication," he says.

Hifn now offers just one product, the DS 250, that combines security and compression in one board. It is aimed at smaller OEMs, and as its name denotes, it supports up to 250-Mbit/s throughput. But plans are in the works to add encryption to higher-speed compression boards aimed at larger system and switch OEMs.Competition is heating up. Startups like Storewiz and Cebatech, for example, also claim to perform so-called "lossless" compression, which scrunches data without regard to its content. Like Hifn, these vendors claim to have overcome the traditional performance hits typical of early compression solutions.

Dietz says Hifn has in its favor the ability to integrate with OEMs instead of relying on an external appliance or device, as Storewiz does. "Eventually, whatever they're doing will become an integrated checkbox in the rest of the storage ecosystem," Dietz says of Storewiz.

Meanwhile, he sees plenty of work ahead embedding Hifn wares into other vendors' products. "There's lots of activity going on in what people want done with their information, either when it's moving around or resting. We see that as kind of our sweet spot."

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch

  • Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)

  • FalconStor Software Inc. (Nasdaq: FALC)

  • Hifn Inc. (Nasdaq: HIFN)

  • NeoScale Systems Inc.

  • Quantum Corp. (NYSE: QTM)

  • Storewize Inc.

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