Varonis Goes for the Lockdown

Startup looks to bridge storage and security by targeting unstructured data



With more and more firms suffering high-profile security breaches, startup Varonis is touting a storage-based access solution which it claims can help lock down corporate data.

Retail giant TJX recently became the latest firm to suffer a high-profile security breach, when it was revealed that hackers gained access to customer credit card transactions, reportedly stealing data from over 45 million cards. This followed headline-grabbing security breaches at Marriott Hotels and ChoicePoint, which was eventually fined $15 million after a key customer database was hacked. (See ChoicePoint Fined $15M, The Year in Insecurity, Holiday Shoppers Fear ID Theft, and Financial Security: Priceless.)

The startup's flagship product is a software solution called DatAdvantage, which shows who is accessing files on Windows-based NAS systems and file servers. The solution installs agent software on the file servers and uses APIs on the NAS boxes to compile this data. According to Varonis, the software can also reveal when the files were created, re-opened or renamed.

Former NetApp exec Yaki Faitelson, who is the Varonis co-founder and CEO, told Byte and Switch that the idea for the technology was born out of his past experiences in professional services. "One of our customers did a storage consolidation and deleted massive amounts of data -- they asked, 'Who did this?' " he says.

The startup has racked up about 50 customers since its launch in January 2005. These include publishing giant Condé Nast, Juniper Networks, and flash memory specialist msytems, recently bought by SanDisk. (See SanDisk Buys msystems.)

New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an early adopter of DatAdvantage, having deployed the solution about eight months ago. Steve Peltzman, MoMA's CIO, told Byte and Switch that the high-profile security breaches of the last few years prompted the data lock-down. "We have sensitive art data and sensitive donor data. If that were to be touched we would be in big trouble," he says.

Although he did not go into specifics, Peltzman explained that MoMA is using Varonis to identify data that hasn't been touched for long periods of time, in some cases years. The museum is also using the software to identify unusual data access patterns, such as a specific computer bombarding a file server with requests for information.

The CIO says that he is not aware of any other vendors undertaking this type of file-based reporting, although he admits that working with a startup requires a degree of due diligence. "We keep tabs on [Varonis's] health as a company," he says, adding that he would like the startup to add more automation to DatAdvantage, particularly when it comes to issuing alerts to the MoMA IT team.

At the moment, Varonis is also limited to Windows-based file systems, although Faitelson told Byte and Switch that Unix and NFS versions of DatAdvantage are slated for Q4.

At least one analyst thinks that Varonis has carved out a niche at the nexus of storage and security. "This whole topic of data governance is getting hot," says Ted Friedman, research vice president at Gartner. "[Varonis] gives you a way to see where you have gaps in your data access strategy."

While a number of vendors, such as CA and IBM, with its Tivoli software, tout the ability to prevent access to information, users have lacked software to help them quickly decide who gets access to what. "Varonis is basically trying to automatically figure out who has access to data, and who shouldn’t," he says.

The analyst warns that the startup needs to think seriously about beefing up its product line if it wants to grasp this opportunity. At the moment, for example, DatAdvantage is limited to scanning unstructured data. "That's a weakness -- people also care about ensuring that they have access control on their structured data too," says Friedman.

Pricing for DatAdvantage depends on the number of users, although a license for a typical deployment of 50 to 250 users starts at $25,000.

— James Rogers, Senior Editor Byte and Switch

  • CA Inc. (NYSE: CA)
  • Gartner Inc.
  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)
  • Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR)
  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)
  • SanDisk Corp. (Nasdaq: SNDK)

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