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The New Era of the Stateless Enterprise

The Crushed Laptop that Spawned a Revolution

It was a hot summer evening when my ThinkPad crashed. Not in the egg-headed, computer guy sense; I watched in horror as computer bits that I never even knew existed exploded from the ground and went flying into the air. It was a horror scene. The reason for that unfortunate close encounter with the pavement is way too embarrassing to tell, so I’ll leave it to your imagination. Besides my pride, I also lost about two weeks’ worth of important work. But at that same instant, I gained an all-important eureka moment: the idea of the stateless enterprise was born.

Fast forward 9 years. I’m CTO of CTERA Networks. And at last, to my great excitement, that old vision is finally fully implemented, with the sixth release of CTERA’s file services platform. Let me start by explaining what the stateless enterprise is and how embracing this idea will make your life awesome.

If you work at a large enterprise company you probably have thousands, or even tens of thousands of endpoint devices – laptops, desktops, branch office file servers and so on, all sitting out there in the field, all storing important business data.

But sitting out there in the field means this data is unsafe – as made all too clear by the tragic ending of my beloved laptop. But perhaps even more importantly, the massive amounts of unstructured data sitting on those laptops or branch offices is “dark data” – that is, nobody really knows what’s there, it’s not easily searchable, and no insights are being generated from this data.

IT departments everywhere are spending huge amount of efforts on managing this endpoint device data. When an employee gets a new laptop, the IT guy needs to help him or her move their data from the old to the new. When a branch office server fails, or becomes obsolete, the IT guy needs to drive over, schlepping a new server in its enormous carton (do they really need so much padding?), and then spend the best part of the day restoring the data from a backup and getting everything running again.

Becoming a stateless enterprise means you eliminate all the “state” from those endpoint devices. By installing CTERA’s file services platform, you suck all that data from the endpoint devices into your own secure cloud. Your endpoint devices – whether laptops, desktops, file servers, or whatever – become merely a local cache of the “golden copy” stored in the cloud. Any changes are stored only temporarily on the device, while they are quickly and efficiently on-ramped to your organization’s private cloud.

And that makes all the difference. By acting as a cache, all those thousands of endpoint devices contain no irreplaceable data. An employee gets a new laptop? No problem: just sign in to the new machine and immediately all the data is THERE – and it feels just as snappy as a local hard drive. No IT involvement is needed whatsoever.

Have a branch office Windows file server? Easy. Just install a CTERA cloud gateway, which sucks all the files from the old server – including those pesky security ACLs and shares you spent so much time setting up – pushing everything to your cloud. This gateway’s file experiences are the same as the old server, and users don’t notice a thing. The gateway fails? No sweat, just plug in a new one, and within minutes it is ready to go – with all that lost data just appearing to pop back into existence.

It’s magical. Our customers love it. But it doesn’t end there. It also means that you suddenly have all that previously “dark” data right at your fingertips – in your own cloud– as a searchable, analyzable and sharable repository. And that has some real impact on your business. Data is the new gold.

My trusty old ThinkPad that was crushed to smithereens now enjoys his final rest at some electronic junkyard. Sometime I hope he’s dating a sexy MacBook in computer heaven. I think he deserves it. May he rest in pieces.