The blog is moving to our new website. Read all the latest news at Sonian Blog.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

SaaS and Total Transparency - Through the Looking Glass

Sonian is convinced the best way to manage a long-term instantly search-able archive is to use a reliable and secure cloud-compute grid infrastructure. But for some customers, using a hosted service means taking a leap of faith with a vendor they are just getting to know.

Customers contemplating hosted archiving might think: "The price is right (certainly less expensive then doing it ourselves), the features are just what we need, but can we trust a vendor with our data?"
Trust, in the form of reliability and security, doesn't come for granted. And hosted archive vendors have to earn the customer's trust. This is especially true since the customer is putting a lot of faith in their archive vendor to protect the contents entrusted to the vendors care.

One way to build trust is to adopt a policy of "Total Transparency." This means talking openly about how the mechanics work behind the scenes. This is especially important when it comes to how data is encrypted, stored and managed. Customers will want to know what encryption algorithms are in place, how the data is stored, what happens when a data center experiences an outage - basically all the things they would know if the archive were maintained "in-house."

Sonian, with our use of Amazon Web Services, has our entire data center infrastructure under scrutiny by hundreds of thousands daily users. If a hiccup happens, everyone will know, just like when the electricity goes out. This is total transparency at its best.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dell sees the future in the cloud

Dell, known mostly as a computer hardware supplier, is building out a range of Web-hosted services that the company plans to roll out globally by the end of the year.

Dell realized that SaaS is a "game changing" medium for providing support services, so it started putting together its own offerings through the acquisitions, Steve Schuckenbrock, senior VP of Dell's Global Services, said.

Hardware vendors like Dell and EMC are sensing the changing market forces that will push more IT services into the cloud.

White House official details email hole

More information about the White House email archiving problems have been revealed in a House Oversight Committee meeting. According to Stephen McDevitt, an official in the presidential CIO office, the ” process by which email was being collected and retained was primitive and the risk that data would be lost was high.” The full report is here as a PDF.

Congressional staff reported “In mid-2005 … a critical security issue was identified and corrected. During this period it was discovered that the file servers and the file directories used to store the retained email … were accessible by everyone on the EOP network.”

It's amazing the Office of the President allowed such a weak and insecure archiving method to exist for so long.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

WSJ: Compliance Costs Grow Faster Than Net Income

Cory Levine writes in the Wall Street & Technology column about the results of a recent study by Deloitte & Touche's Center for Banking Solutions. Deloitte surveyed chief compliance officers, chief risk officers and other senior executives at 20 of the top 50 financial institutions in the US and found compliance costs are eating up more and more net income, growing from 2.83 percent of net income in 2002 to 3.69 percent in 2006. The report goes on to say:

One of the primary reasons for the increase in costs, according to Deloitte, is that institutions are responding to regulation by applying human resources to monitor compliance, rather than investing in scalable technology resources to manage the effort. The research report shows that 60 percent of respondents' compliance-related spending in 2006 was on compensation, while only 19 percent of spending was on consultants and vendors; 18 percent went to capital expenses, including systems, hardware and software.
Searching email for compliance is probably one of the largest contributors to increased expense in this area. Organizations with compliance needs should look to the new generation of SaaS solutions for budget relief. Hosted email archiving can provide archival search infrastructure more economically than an on-premise system.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Postini Channel Partners: "Come to Sonian"

To: All Unhappy Postini Channel Partners
From: Sonian
RE: Hosted Email Archive Services. Get on the right track.

Recent events in your world have forced you to look elsewhere for your bulk message archiving needs. Sonian respects your contribution to the customer relationship, and we have some great channel partner programs that preserve your revenue stream and reward loyalty.

EMC buys Pi Corp - Another vote for "cloud compute"

EMC is buying Pi Corp according to this article at

According to Pi's web site, the software Pi is working on is designed to let people control, share, and publish information that is online or locally stored.

Pi has ambitious goals, and the fact they are building this super-personal information manager (S-PiM) shows there is a growing desire among modern knowledge managers (i.e. any of us who use email, digital files for photos, music and record keeping) to have more flexibility in the way we manage and access our digital content. Cloud compute combined with a lightweight rich Internet application is a great way to accomplish this goal.

Apparently EMC agrees, since they have purchased Pi Corp. in an all cash deal.

"We're saying that success in this new space will require a very different technology base--and a business model--very unlike other parts of the traditional IT landscape," wrote Chuck Hollis, EMC's global marketing chief technology officer, in his blog.
The IT landscape is changing rapidly. It's exciting times to be at the forefront of the next wave of great innovation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mozilla Messaging Takes Flight

David Ascher announced on his blog the name of the new Mozilla spin-out that will focus on developing and marketing the Thunderbird email client. Mozilla Messaging, the new company, will take Thunderbird to new heights.

Despite all this initial enthusiasm, there are some larger questions that need to be answered: such as is there really a need for another desktop email/calendar/PIM software client? Does the rise in popularity of Gmail and hosted collaboration apps negate the need for thick clients? and can Mozilla Messaging succeed where the Chandler Project could not? Maybe.

Chandler is an ambitious open source project to create an alternative to Outlook. Thunderbird has the same mission statement, but a better code base and an actual shipping product, with a world-wide audience. Chandler has yet to ship v1.0 after many years in development. So they are behind in terms of a real audience. The Thunderbird audience of enthusiastic users is definitely a plus for Mozilla Messaging.

With Web 2.0 getting a lot of attention these days, desktop client software should be thought of, in a larger sense, as connected to a web service component for easier data portability and accessibility. This is the real power Mozilla could bring to messaging: totally up-end the e-communications market with a slick cross-platform client connected to a hosted infrastructure that offers server-based processing and centralized content storage, all from a user-centric view point, not tied to one specific service provider. Marrying Thunderbird to a "personal" cloud-compute account seems very interesting.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Today's Brief AWS Outage and How Sonian is Affected

Today's brief Amazon Web Services outage has caused quite a stir in the tech community. Why? Because everyone is paying close attention to how quickly problems are solved and what the effect "unplanned" downtime has on SaaS adoption rates.

For Sonian specifically, our customers were not affected by the outage. But this fact is more luck than anything. Our "portion" of the cloud remained running while other parts did not. If Sonian was interrupted by the outage, here is what would have happened:

  • Data collection would be put on pause - which means we would not accept any new items. The data will queue up on the customer side and then collection automatically resumes when the all systems are go, and the light above changes to "green."
  • Searching could be affected. No data is ever lost, but access to the data could be interrupted for a brief period of time.
  • Exports will be put on pause. Access to file downloads will be paused until we are running again.
  • Sonian has a self-healing mode (external to the cloud) to monitor it's own health in the cloud. This feature will kick into action and restart processes automatically.
Failures like this can happen in every system, and anyone that promises otherwise is foolish or lying (or both). Amazon does not promise that their systems won't fail, but I can assure you that when something does go wrong, I trust that when a team of Amazon engineers springs into action the issues will be resolved quickly..... probably more quickly than if your own server crashed in the middle of the night or if you were hosted at another vendors co-location facility.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

White House E-Mail Case Clears Another Hurdle

The White House email archiving fiasco is under further scrutiny. eWeek is reporting that a District Court Judge has ruled the White House must participate in some type of limited discovery activities.

Rejecting the White House Office of Administration's contention that it is not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the OA (Office of Administration) to participate in limited discovery.
The lost emails issue will be recorded in the history books along with other communication data losses, such as the Watergate-Nixon tape erasures in the 1970's and Fawn Hall thinking she deleted IBM PROFS messages as Iran-Contra blew open in the 1980's.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Today Show Highlights Email Archiving Issues in the Workplace

The Today Show broadcast a five minute news and interview segment describing how companies are increasingly using email archiving and monitoring tools to police company communication systems. Despite a trend toward IM, Sharepoint, Wiki's and Blogs to replace email, most people still use email to communicate about personal and business issues.

It's not often email issues are discussed on a national news show. For those of us who fight the daily battle to keep email running and ensure "clean, certified and compliant" communications, it's gratifying to see mainstream media talk about the issues email administrators face on a daily basis.

Email surveillance is an unfortunate consequence of our modern office-life experience. But organizations have to draw a fine line between protecting the privacy rights of employees, versus the rights of the company to know if a rogue employee is leaking intellectual property, harassing a co-work via email, or spending all day sending and receiving personal messages.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

In Good Company - Gartners SaaS Predictions

Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organisations and Users in 2008 and Beyond

Sonian the company, and Sonian Archive the service, were created to address the growing need for affordable enterprise SaaS solutions to help organizations spend less on IT and get greater value. And by the way, SaaS is also better for the environment. Less electricity is used compared to in-house server usage patterns.

  • By 2012, at least one-third of business application software spending will be as service subscription instead of as product license. With software as service (SaaS), the user organisation pays for software services in proportion to use. The SaaS model of deployment and distribution of software services will enjoy steady growth in mainstream use during the next five years.
  • By 2011, early technology adopters will forgo capital expenditures and instead purchase 40 per cent of their IT infrastructure as a service. Increased high-speed bandwidth makes it practical to locate infrastructure at other sites and still receive the same response times. Enterprises believe that as service oriented architecture (SOA) becomes common "cloud computing" will take off, thus untying applications from specific infrastructure. This trend to accepting commodity infrastructure could end the traditional "lock-in" with a single supplier and lower the costs of switching suppliers.
  • By 2009, more than one third of IT organizations will have one or more environmental criteria in their top six buying criteria for IT-related goods. Initially, the motivation will come from the wish to contain costs. Enterprise data centres are struggling to keep pace with the increasing power requirements of their infrastructures. And there is substantial potential to improve the environmental footprint, throughout the life cycle, of all IT products and services without any significant trade-offs in price or performance. In future, IT organisations will shift their focus from the power efficiency of products to asking service providers about their measures to improve energy efficiency.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Anti-spam and Basic Compliance are now a Commodity

The Big News this week is Google/Postini's dramatic price drop for hosted email security and basic compliance services.

Who really knows if Google is taking a loss at these new lower prices to get more traction. They seem willing to seed the market for a long-term gain. And since Google is all about capturing as much data about everything, capturing data about spam and compliance feeds their voracious appetite for analytics.

One potential sting Google could feel is their privacy history. Will Google really resist the temptation not to analyze content information for future metrics, and eventually revenue? Competitors could force Google to "prove" there is no content leakage between the spam filtering side of the business and the search business.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

3...2...1... and we have Lift Off - Sonian has Launched

George, Jeff, Tim and I, along with our excellent engineers and marketing folks, launched Sonian Hosted Archive SA2 this week.

More than a year in development and leading edge in so many ways, we thank our investors and advisors for their support and guidance. Everything is coming together nicely as we "on board" new customers into their hosted archiving experience.

At the heart of Sonian's mission is the core belief that archiving for both compliance and storage management should be affordable and accessible to all companies and organizations, no matter their size or IT budget wealth. And affordable does not mean sacrificing security and reliability. On the contrary, we think Sonian, from our customer's point of view, is the most secure and reliable of any hosted archive service. We knew security and reliability were two critical concerns our customers would have when thinking of using a hosted service to archive their data. Cost is the third concern. Sonian is the right combination of technology and business model to meet all three concerns.