Brian & Gabe LIVE #21 - Part 2: A chat with Harry Labana about mobile syncing solutions

Listen to the whole episode with Harry Labana here!


Brian: That’s a tall order.  If we can go into one of those particular things, Gabe and I were talking about a lot yesterday and in the last week or so at CIT, we’ve been talking about various – oh, no, sorry, CIT is our internal name for our consumer’s IT website.  The conference, we were denied.  

Gabe: The CITE.

Brian: The CITE conference.  

Harry: Apparently, you don’t know anything about consumerization then.  

Brian: We were all booted about because the talk about the world’s top experts on consumerization, so that’s not us because we were not allowed in.  Anyway.  We talked last week and I have two more articles planned for this week about mobile file sinking solutions and basically drop box quotes, drop box enterprise alternatives, enterprise document management.  I’m sort of wondering, can those two things, can they even be the same product?  Like philosophically, like your drop box that you put stuff in every day.  Who cares if it’s not secured?  Maybe that can live alongside of your, whatever crazy enterprise data management product can be.  Thoughts, guys?

Gabe: When we talked yesterday, I mentioned the thing – the last time I talked to Harry was a briefing on that whole data locker thing from AppSense labs.  So, in that situation you could use personal drop box and still encrypt the corporate data.  So, that’s where I feel like that that maybe can be the same solution and literally can be the same.  I’m still going to use drop box no matter what because there’s so many of these sync solutions out there now.  Everybody has one.  And there’s a ton that aren’t affiliated with people, the Sugar Syncs of the world and I can’t remember the other one.  Share Files with Citrix now.  All of those guys, they’re all about mobile, they’re all about sync, they’re all about doing the same thing.  Just drop box is so damn simple, it just does it.  That’s why people keep going back to it in spite of all these other ones existing.

Harry: Perhaps I’ll give you a minute on how I think about this.  I think the reality is you can’t be prescriptive, you’re just going to be one way, there’s just one way to do this.  When we came up with Data Locker, the reality was, in our previous office when we were out in San Jose, even Brian came up for a visit, we just had a desk and a white board many months ago.  It was just every time someone would walk into the office, we’d turn it around and hide the white board and really it was like you guys.  Watching you guys set up and you’re using drop box to get ready for this show here.  That’s fine.  We just basically said to ourselves, hey, that’s kind of bad because we’re putting some pretty sensitive stuff out there, and let’s just figure out a way to encrypt it.  That’s really how Data Locker was formed.  

But then we started to look deeper at it and said let’s look at this from a user perspective, and also at the end of the day we’re an enterprise company, let’s look at it from an IT perspective.  We said what does a user care about?  Why do people like me behave badly at the enterprise?  Because I like to use my stuff locally because it’s fast, it’s performance, it’s just there.  I just like it.  That’s okay.  But at the same time, I want to have access to my stuff wherever it is.  But then from an IT perspective, IT doesn’t want to retrain me in lots and lots of different tools.  So, workflow becomes really, really important.  At the end of the day, as much stick that we give IT and say we don’t – what is IT’s job?  It’s to protect the enterprise.

Because there are laws and rules and even if you’re a user, if you’re in a regulated industry, you couldn’t just say I don’t care.  So, we decided and this is kind of a Brian Madden exclusive, it’s the first time we’ve actually spoken about this publically, but we’ve been thinking at AppSense how do we solve this problem.  And we’re working on something internally called Project Orca.  Project Orca is all about how do you get enterprise access to data in different places?  At its highest level, and what we’ve said is well, at the end of the day, I put stuff in drop box, but if I’m in an enterprise, where is my valuable data today?  A lot of it still is in the enterprise because of information leakage, I’m not allowed to take it out.  So, the real problem is not necessarily encryption day one, the real problem is I want to access my data.  So, even if I have a corporate managed laptop for example, I probably still have to VPN from a corporate managed laptop, which has full disc encryption and we thought about that and said how ridiculous is that?

Because if I give you my IPhone right now, what can you really do with it?  It’s 256 bit encrypted.  If you do three password attempts on it, it’s going to crack it.  

Brian: How many digits long is your password?  

Harry: Four.  

Brian: Out of curiosity, do you use a product to lock down the iPhone and that’s just built into?

Harry: We use you active sync policies just for email, and then three bad attempts, it’s done.  But the iPhone in itself is an encrypted device.  It has encryption.  If you think about it, you’ve got my little passcode, you’ve got active sync policy, you’ve got a couple of kill bit switches, and emails okay there.  Okay, fine, it’s not a financial services level of security and that’s where you look at solutions like good, but for us, it’s great.  I’m not going to VPN from that.  Why not apply that same kind of logic initially to laptops?  When we thought about Orca, we said why can’t I access my home drive at home?  How cool would that be?  Or extend my home drive to anywhere and to do that, we really have to be able to access that from different kinds of clients.  

We’d have to, in a secure way, and really free principles.  John Wallace, who was number one presenter at BriForum last year.

Brian: That is correct.  AppSense had three out of the top five just in rankings of best presenters.  I was not among the top five.

Harry: I got this frantic call from John Wallace, and he was saying Harry, I think I’ve got it.  I think I know what to do with this.  We had this long conversation and we started to think about design principles of what this thing should do.  One of the first ones we said look, what’s really, really important is workflow because there is no way IT is going to spend money to retrain users to access their home drive.  Whatever we do, we’re not going to go and put stubs of data on there or new drives.  It has to work with what they already have.  It has to be transparent irrespective of the client coming into; it has to feel like a native client.  

So, that was principle #1.  Principle #2 has to be about let’s just solve an access problem of V1.  V1, let’s think about how you get access, let’s build a virtual plan, so we built a secure Lennox center with virtual appliance, which you can actually connect through the infrastructure, do various levels of authentication, and then the third principle is really about governance.  So, what is AppSense?  It’s really a governance, compliance and policy company.  When you really peel it back.  That’s why people buy AppSense, and what they really want is to be able to extend that governance and compliance to the data that they’re applying.  So, we formulated this project, Project Orca, we’ve been working away busily on it.  We will see where we take that.

So, our view is that Orca today is just an extension of your home drive.  But tomorrow – 

Brian: So, with desktop clients and mobile clients and so, it’s, and it’s on your home drive and not on who knows where.

Harry: Today, the way we’re thinking about it is – we’re trying to solve the problem for the enterprise.  A lot of people have an access problem to their enterprise data.  Let’s think about photo reader is a great example.  So, people do photo reduction.  It sucks.  Photo reduction, no matter what people tell you.  It’s not very good.  But tomorrow, if that same infrastructure can also connect you to different cloud repositories, why can’t it become a bridge?  So you can choose.  Hey, if you want to use Drop Box because it’s easy, it’s simple, use it.  We know we can do it.  We’ve proved that it did.  Tomorrow it could be Box, it could be ShareFile, it could be Sky Drive.  I think for us, we did not want to get into the data business.  We are not going to be a data storage provider.  What we wanted to do is – people want access from a, we call it kind of the user virtualization people centered platform.

That whole enterprise consumerization piece is really about getting access to the stuff that you need.  That’s what we’re really interested in, not getting into becoming a data storage repository company.

Gabe: So, Orca right now is a service that runs in the data center then?  

Harry: Orca as in the prototypes we have for it, it would be something that you would put in your DMZ.  You could put it inside your network, your VPN into it which defeats the purpose, but you could do that.  It’s a secure Lennox appliance.  They’ll be more information on what that is.  So, John Wallace is actually going to post a blog on some of the Orca concepts probably after this show.  We’ll release more details over the coming weeks.  So, let’s certainly watch his blog on the AppSense blog.  But the idea would be that the clients can communicate over HTPS with this infrastructure, that can then talk to your existing storage repositories without modification, and then you can apply some policy initially to deal with the common use cases.  The first use case we’re going for is just give me access to my stuff at home in an easier way across multiple clients.  

Brian: So is this conceptually like Octopus or Res HyperDrive?

Harry: I think for us, again, the key differentiators are we are not requiring you to change your existing storage.  I don’t want to speak for Res because I don’t claim to be an expert on their technology, but my understanding of it is that you’re required to create a hyperdrive stub on the infrastructure.  So, you’d have to use that for your storage repository.  So, we took the approach of build this ground up.  We didn’t go and think about getting this technology from elsewhere because we built it from ground up, we can take it in any direction we want.  We can choose to do that, that was the simplest root.  We instead decided to simply leave the storage on modify, so we can do things like virtualize the file system, so our clients look and feel. 

If I showed you the Mac client, it looks like – you couldn’t tell, it’s finder.  If I showed you the Windows client, it looks like Explorer.

Brian: So, the user experience is sort of like Drop Box, but the secure virtual clients you have is sort of like a proxy almost for taking your regular file storage in the back – 

Harry: Think of it as a user hub.

Brian: I don’t know what that means.

Harry: Think of it as my clients talk to this user hub, this hub then gets me services.  And the service that’s available today is your enterprise home directory.  Tomorrow it could also be your Drop Box folder.  And so on and so forth.  

Gabe: So, the question is that’s relying on organizations existing storage capabilities and if they’re small and if they’re slow, and if the user is on the other side of the world and they’re going all the way back to their corporate headquarters 5,000 miles away, that user is going to go get Drop Box?  

Harry: They can.  At the end of the day, when we looked at this, we’re not trying to become a consumer company.  Drop Box does great stuff.  We use it.  If people want to integrate Drop Box into their workflow at work, and this is what I mean by enterprise consumerization, then by all means, do it.  If your requirement is that you encrypt your files in Drop Box to do it, and you need some policy on that, we would enable that.  We’re not going to be the CDN for it; will our virtual appliance do more redundancy and scalability in the future?  Absolutely.  But today, it’s just – most of our customers when we speak to them, they said offline folder sucks.  Help us out.  Can we get access to our existing enterprise data on our IPad?  Our iPhones, our Android devices?  And the answer to that is well, conceptually yes.  And we’re working on that.

Brian: So, for those in the chat room who wants to change the topic, I was curious about what this stuff is.

Gabe: We can catch up on this whole conversation in the chat room here.

Brian: I can’t read and listen at the same time.  So, those of you who say can we please change the subject, you tell me what subjects you want to have next.  I see conversations about how much Windows 8 was going to suck and why Microsoft is still screwing us.  

Gabe: We missed a bunch of lines of chatting here.

Brian: And enterprise agreements.  Give us a new topic.  Incidentally, the online – let’s shift gears 100 percent.  I don’t know if we want to do some bets, when Microsoft announced that OnLive was not in compliance with the licensing agreement, my first reaction was okay, OnLive was just being ignorant, stupid, or arrogant and they missed it.  But now the more people I talk to over the past week, I’m starting to wonder if OnLive feels like they actually found a loophole.  It wasn’t that OnLive was being ignorant; it wasn’t that they didn’t know any better, they actually scoured license agreements that they had and decided that they felt like they found a loophole, which is why they’re being quiet on it.  Microsoft, of course, Microsoft is going to say they’re not in compliance, but Microsoft says they’re not in compliance, OnLive says they’re not in compliance, OnLive says we are in compliance and let the courts sort that out.

What do you guys – I’m curious to the audience as well as to Gabe and others.  What do you guys think about?

Gabe: You and I talked about this yesterday and it was one of those classic men, we had a really awesome conversation about it and now we’re going to try and recreate it.  Although we’re not.  My inclination, having met with OnLive’s CEO and asked the questions directly, I really think that if there were some sort of agenda, there’s no way in hell they let on.  That guy should quit all this CEO bullshit and become an actor.  Because the answers that we got were more along the lines of yeah, we got licensing guys, they’re on it.  By the way, check out all this cool demo.  Look, we have a fast internet connection, but we don’t really, it’s a slow one.  So, it was just very – I feel like they either didn’t know or were circumventing it on purpose, and maybe that backs up what you’re saying that they’re doing it on purpose to prove something.  

I don’t know if they’re trying to prove something, I don’t know why they’re not being more public about that.  If they’re doing it because they think they have a loophole and they’re trying to dispute Microsoft.  Right now, the balls in Microsoft’s – the needle is favoring Microsoft on the scale of who’s winning because Microsoft is like hey, they’re not in compliance.  So, why isn’t OnLive out there saying hey, come on, there’s a loophole here.  

Brian: They could have a confidentiality agreement with Microsoft on the license because they had to sign some deal with Microsoft because they provide Windows games.

Gabe: But then how can Microsoft – that’s another thing altogether.  If they’re in violation, I think that Windows games might be affected as well.  But if there’s a confidentiality agreement, Microsoft can go out there and talk about how OnLive is not in compliance but OnLive can’t talk about how they’re not?

Harry: I think it was a giant copout because this is an assumption because we can do it for games.  They have a very capital-intensive business because they’re dedicated hardware, so I don’t know how you actually build a business out that way.  One way to do that is to increase volume massively.  It’s kind of natural to say hey, just do it for desktops as well.  That’s a new workload which we can add to this business of dedicated hardware, and I think it’s virtualization that got them into trouble.

Gabe: They had the hardware sitting there not doing anything during the day while people were at work and not gaming, so I think they were trying to think of a way to leverage all that capacity that was just sitting there doing nothing.


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