SnapLock Locks Down Info

Network Appliance's SnapLock stores WORM content on hard drives.

Network Appliance Inc.s SnapLock compliance edition gives IT managers a hard-drive-based solution for storing WORM content. With the enforcement of data retention regulations, WORM data archival systems have been pushed to the top of many companies IT priority lists (see SnapLock in action).

SnapLock Compliance is a software package that allows IT managers to create WORM volumes on Network Appliance storage systems, providing a faster and more efficient alternative to the optical-drive-based solutions that have typically dominated this area.

SnapLock Compliance began shipping in May. A license for the 12-terabyte version costs $30,000; a 24- terabyte model costs $60,000. When it was first launched, SnapLock worked only with Network Appliances NearStore ATA-drive-based near-line storage product, but support has been expanded to include all of Network Appliances recent storage systems.

Locked Down Tight

Once snaplock is set to protect data, there is no way to delete or alter data, short of smashing the hard drives. In tests, eWEEK Labs verified that even with administrative rights, we could not alter (rename, edit and so on) or delete protected files.

SnapLock works over network-attached storage protocols such as NFS (Network File System) and CIFS (Common Internet File System), which means that Network Appliance customers running FAS units for storage-area-network storage cannot run SnapLock on their SAN volumes.

Linking SnapLock to common file-sharing protocols such as NFS and CIFS makes things easier for third-party software vendors that want to use Network Appliance storage with SnapLock. In contrast, EMC Corp.s Centera WORM solution uses a proprietary API to allow application servers to talk to the storage device.

SnapLock volumes look pretty much like any other file share once they are mounted. The only major difference is that once the read-only flag is set for a document, SnapLock gives that file and its directory layout (path name) WORM properties.

Once a file has been protected, it cannot be altered or deleted until its retention life is over, a strict guideline that should force IT managers to be careful about what data should be protected because that data could be around for several years.

SnapLock uses the Date Accessed field to set the retention attribute on files because there is no Retention Date attribute on standard file systems, and Date Accessed is used much less often than fields such as Date Modified and Date Created.

The SnapLock Enterprise edition, due this month, will be a little more lenient, allowing administrators to delete volumes but not letting them alter or delete individual files.

There are no compression technologies built in to SnapLock, but Network Appliance said many of its software partners have compression functionality in their respective data archiving packages.

IT managers can concurrently run SnapLock volumes with standard volumes on a single storage unit, but because of the way the licensing agreement works, customers need to buy SnapLock volume licenses separately. (You cannot convert a standard volume into a SnapLock volume.)

The benefit to being able to run both types of volumes on a single machine is that it spares IT managers from having to buy a separate machine just to hold WORM data. This will consequently make storage consolidation easier.

SnapLock does not offer much in terms of management; it has no management interface, and it doesnt issue a unique content address for identifying files like EMC Corp.s Centera does. Users can use Network Appliance software such as Data OnTap to manage volumes and hardware devices.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be contacted at