Over the last couple of years, we have seen a high uptake of Enterprise Vault File System Archiving (FSA) amongst our install base. However, we have not been able to offer support for customers where Apple Mac systems need to access the archived files. That is, until now. I’m excited to detail our support for FSA and Mac systems through our partnership with Group Logic.
First of all some background to why we have not been able to support Mac systems as clients for FSA. When we create placeholders we set the CIFS ‘O’ Offline attribute. A Windows client knows to treat this file differently to non-archived files. Indeed, on seeing the ‘O’ attribute set, Windows will change the icon of the file so that you have a visual indicator that this is a pointer to the file which is now “somewhere else”. (On Windows XP you will see a black clock symbol in the bottom left of the file icon. With Vista and Windows 7 you will see an ‘X’ symbol on the icon. A common misconception is that it is Enterprise Vault changing this icon. It is not, it is Windows.)
The Apple Mac does not understand the difference between an archived and a non-archived file. It will treat them all the same. Why is this important when it comes to archived files? The Mac provides a very rich end user experience. Finder (the equivalent of Windows Explorer) will attempt to display thumbnail or preview information for every file it sees in a folder including the archived or offline files. Windows on the other hand will not generate thumbnail information for archived files. What this means is that the simple act of browsing a folder with Finder will recall all the archived files from within it, just to display the preview information.
This has a number of serious ramifications:
• The Finder experience will be very slow
• GB’s or even TB’s of archived content will be recalled back through the file server
• The archive server will be exceptionally busy, impacting legitimate recall or search requests
The more Mac systems you have on the network, the bigger these problems become. The long and short of this issue is that Mac heavy departments or organizations have not been able to rollout seamless archiving such as FSA. This is not a unique problem to Enterprise Vault FSA, but a problem for any archiving application that will seamlessly honor file recall requests.
What this has meant is that more and more storage is required for the Mac users, or some form of crude archiving is taking place. It is quite common for Mac organizations to back files up to tape and then remove all visibility to them from the file system. While this solves a storage problem, it provides no level of access to those files to the end user community. Any access that is required results in a restore request through to the IT department.
Symantec engaged with Group Logic to overcome this problem and enable seamless and transparent archiving with FSA to be deployed to the Mac industry. Group Logic are the recognised leaders in integrating Mac systems in to the Windows world. They produce ExtremeZ-IP which is widely deployed in Mac organizations. Group Logic have now created ArchiveConnect which overcomes the fundamental issue of the Mac not understanding the difference between archived and non-archived files.
ArchiveConnect will block the Finder browse request for preview information. It will generate preview information for the non-archived files, but for the archived files a generic icon will be displayed for the particular type of file. This is one visual indicator to the end-user that these are archived files. While blocking the request for preview information, ArchiveConnect will allow the user or application to open the archived files normally through either a double-click, or a file open request.
ArchiveConnect combined with ExtremeZ-IP will allow a second visual indicator in that all archived files can be labelled with an administrator chosen color.
Enterprise Vault FSA and ArchiveConnect is a unique combination opening up seamless archiving to the Mac world. If you think about the typical Mac heavy industries (media, publishing, print, advertising etc.) then these are the types of organizations that require archiving. They are rich in digital media which is only ever increasing in size. Now they have a new way of managing the file servers. I say “new”, but it is really a tried and trusted way of managing the file server that has been accepted by the thousands of FSA customers in the Windows world.
Speaking of those existing FSA customers. We are seeing more and more pockets of Mac users even within the corporate dominated Windows world (I myself am typing this blog on my Symantec supplied Mac). What ArchiveConnect enables is the further deployment of FSA throughout the whole organization. Maybe certain shares were unable to be archived before? Maybe archiving had to be stopped once Mac systems appeared? ArchiveConnect now allows you to fully deploy FSA with the confidence of no undesirable behaviour.
Group Logic and Symantec will be showcasing the combined solution in an upcoming webinar on October 7th. Keep checking back here for registration details. In the mean time, more information can be obtained on Archive Connect from here:
If you wish to follow up with Group Logic or myself, then email EnterpriseVault@grouplogic.com.
Group Product Manager
Enterprise Vault File System Archiving