For the past decade or so, due to a variety of updated SEC and FRCP rulings, new GLBA, HIPAA and SOX legislation and just the unparalleled growth of unstructured data, larger entities and public companies have more at stake when managing their email and other forms of messaging, documents, web content, and images. Today and in the future, no public or private entity of any size, government agency, educational, or healthcare institution will be completely insulated from the need to manage their data effectively regardless of whether the motivation be legal, knowledge mining, or reducing costs.
Typically, enterprises with more than 1,000 mailboxes - along with smaller firms in heavily regulated industries such as energy, finance, and healthcare - have long ago adopted a bevy of point solutions for archiving, backup, classification, data movement, document management, ediscovery, indexing, policy management, reporting, search, security, and storage optimization to meet their compliance and unstructured data management (UDM) requirements with varying degrees of success. These solutions come in hosted, in-house or hybrid flavors. In general, larger firms have more influence over vendor and service-provider product-development roadmaps than do smaller firms. They also usually have greater in-house resources to deal with solution shortcomings such as module integration or scalability issues.
California-based Cofio, which means “to remember” or “to take on board” in Welsh, is an Information Management (IM) software development firm that intends to challenge legacy UDM vendors across the company size spectrum but clearly has a strategy to win over the small-to-medium size business (SMB). CEO Tony Cerqueira believes his product will scale for larger companies but anticipates smaller firms will embrace Cofio’s end-to-end approach. Cerqueira and CTO Fabrice Helliker co-founded the company on the premise that unifying key functions under a single, lower cost, easy-to-implement, in-house solution platform (christened AIMstor for Active Information Management of storage) would be a welcome alternative to the status quo.
AIMstor is a centrally managed, single application built to deliver multiple functionalities through a “unified” framework of critical components Cofio refers to as “lifecycle policy management, real-time data protection, data change awareness, consistent metadata, information awareness, content tracking and unified information management”. Policy attaches to data at the moment of creation and follows the data for its entire information lifecycle. Backup is in the form of a snapshot or continuous data protection (CDP). The system is capable of tracking who creates or changes a document. Cofio developed a proprietary protocol for tracking desktop activities and uses a single agent-based footprint to enable security throughout the enterprise, which adds to Cofio’s “content awareness” capabilities.
Matching data flow to policies and classifications requires a unified repository, which in turn allows AIMstor to consolidate additional data protection, storage management, and data reduction solutions such as post processing deduplication and single instancing into a single application. Cofio also built its own integrated search engine based on the open source Lucene information retrieval library which is widely implemented across many UDM enabled applications.
Futures and Concerns
While Cofio’s founders and core engineering team have significant experience creating and delivering enterprise-class software to large, complex IT environments for companies such as Yahoo, Los Alamos Labs, NetApp, and Sony, how well it can deliver on a truly unified system remains to be seen. The end-to-end claim is somewhat misleading as any truly comprehensive solution in the UDM space would, at the least, have to address all the needed functionality sets to meet a firm’s requirements including a content management or ECM capability, mailbox management, and authentication for compliance purposes. Given that Cofio is in the early stages of its product roll out, real-world experience with the platform along with customer references and an understanding of how easily the solution integrates with a firm’s existing ERP, mail, ediscovery and other applications is still not well known.
Wikibon believes Cofio’s vision and direction are the right approach to helping users solve their unstructured data management challenges - particularly for smaller companies who have less complex infrastructures and the captive IT talent to support a complex in-house implementation. More information on how Cofio will integrate cloud computing paradigms and remote replication features would be useful to those SMBs looking to implement a multiple location solution or hybrid solution. More information on AIMstor's policy management and reporting capabilities would also be useful to potential buyers. It remains to be seen whether or not they can deliver on what appears to be a very promising beginning.
Action Item: For users with fewer than 1,000 mailboxes who are evaluating UDM-enabled solutions, have sufficient technical talent to support a greenfield application, are wary of the high cost of integrating too many legacy point solutions, and are willing to invest time testing a new solution that promises to lower their costs, improve functionality and offer more control over unstructured data, Cofio may be a good fit.
Footnotes: AIMstor uses a "distributed" architecture, with all machines designated as Nodes that are either Source, Destination. Source and Destination, or Master. Nodes can be physical or virtual machines, single or groups. The Master is required simply to help configure and issue policies. From that point on the Nodes do everything themselves. They do not require further control or privileges from the Master. However, the Master can always step in and take control at anytime. All AIMstor controlled machines include the Data Change Engine, meaning they are all real-time sensitive to any rules or policies they must follow, and they are aware of changes to their data the instant they happen, down to the byte level.