I am like a kid opening presents on Christmas mornings today.
Reading and understanding the Novell Filr architecture is exciting with each feature revealing something different, some that may not be entirely unique, but something done simplified. Novell Filr has simplified a few things that are much more appreciated from storage guys like me. Let me share with you this technology learning session.
2 Key Features
First of all, I see the Novell Filr as a Secure Access Broker.
The Novell Filr provides file access, file sharing and file synchronization with multiple mobile devices. The mobility revolution in the likes of smart phones, tablets and other “connected” devices in our personal lives are changing our habits in the way we want information to be accessed, which I can summarize in 2 words – SIMPLE, UNINHIBITED. It is the lack of inhibition that scares the hell out of IT because IT is losing control, and corporations fear data leaks.
Novell Filr lets users access their home directories and network folders from their mobile devices. It lets the users synchronize their files with Windows and MacOS computers, regardless if these devices are internal of the company’s firewalled networks or external of it. Here’s a simple diagram of how Novell Filr defines its position as a Secure Access Broker.
The “Users” in the above diagram refers can be users that are authenticated by Windows Active Directory or Novell eDirectory. If the user does not exist in any one of the AD, eDirectory or another LDAP source domains, then the Novell Filr has the choice to create and provision Novell Filr local users.
External, non-Novell Filr users can also be created when external users are invited to participate via share invitations. Their emails are then be auto-provisioned as a local Novell Filr user or the Novell Filr can accept external users who has a Google or Yahoo! OpenID account.
This is obviously Novell’s leadership in the User Identity Management space, offering both strength, security and simplicity of user access.
The users which are authenticated are given roles or inherit Rights & Roles as shown in the diagram below:
And the owners can also share and grant the appropriate rights of the structures of My Files and Net Folder sharing. I shall explain the 2 structures later.
Supported devices and methods include a web-based browser method, an app for Apple devices supporting iOS 5.x (or later), an app for Android 2.3 (or later) devices, downloadable clients for Windows and MacOS X.
The Novell Filr appliance runs in VMware as a VM and the user authentication and access mechanisms remain no change. The File Server and NAS storage remain no change as well. Windows File Servers, Netware Servers, SuSE OES (One Enterprise Server). NAS storage such as NetApp, EMC, Oracle, and other CIFS/SMB servers should be seamless as well, even though Novell did not mention any official support. Here’s a glimpse of their high-level architecture:
The seamless and non-intrusive features of user authentication and its ability to ensure the customers do not need to rip-and-replace their existing internal file sharing and NAS infrastructure are important.
It is these 2 key features that has convinced me to write my previous blog entry. Novell Filr does not have the intention to force customers to move to the cloud or move to a managed service that will lock them in a service contract that is difficult to renege.
Novell Filr Software
The software is downloaded from Novell. The .zip file has 3 appliance pieces – Filr, Search and MySQL. They are deployed either as a standalone appliance or in a clustered Filr configuration, in the VMware ESX host server, as seen in the diagram below.
Novell Filr Administration & Protocols used
There are 2 administrator logins for the Novell Filr. One is to manage the Novell Filr software and one to manage the Novell Filr appliance. That is why they are accessed as vaadmin through port 9443 (for Novell Filr appliance administration) or admin through port 8443 (for Novell Filr software administration).
Note that port 9443 connected to a Apache jetty HTTPD server while port 8443 is connected to an Apache Tomcat HTTPD server.
The diagram below summarizes Novell Filr administration:
The administrator and the users in their mobile devices communicate with the Novell Filr environment with various protocols, with REST as one of the key protocols. That is no different than most of the Enterprise File Synchronization & Sharing (EFSS) out there. Novell Filr protocol used in is architecture is shown below:
This blog entry is getting a bit too heavy to read. I shall continue with another entry about the concepts of Novell Filr My Files (Personal Storage) and Net Folder in another blog entry.