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Susan Smith
Susan Smith
Susan Smith has worked as an editor and writer in the technology industry for over 16 years. As an editor she has been responsible for the launch of a number of technology trade publications, both in print and online. Currently, Susan is the Editor of GISCafe and AECCafe, as well as those sites’ … More »

Panzura offers cross-site collaboration with global locking file systems

August 6th, 2014 by Susan Smith

Barry Phillips, the CMO of Panzura talked with AECCafe Voice about Panzura’s Global File System and subsequent involvement in the AEC industry, providing cross-site collaboration with their global locking file systems. Moving from CAD to BIM in a single office is not a problem, according to Phillips, but when you try to have project teams spread across distributed offices it doesn’t work. “There have been lots of attempts to solve this problem,” said Phillips. Collaboration is what drives the need for cloud storage.


In July, Panzura experienced exponential growth in the AEC market, doubling its AEC customer sites in one quarter alone, according to the company. This growth builds upon the recent announcement of Panzura’s 1,200 percent quarter over quarter growth in AEC revenue last quarter, as well as the percentage of AEC revenue increasing from 13 percent to 60 percent of Panzura’s total revenue quarter over quarter. Panzura solves cross-site collaboration issues of applications like Revit, AutoCAD, Civil3D, and Bentley MicroStation.

Companies use Panzura plus a cloud to have data live and really centralized within the cloud.


“Everybody thinks Panzura is for companies to use the cloud as a good archiving solution, so instead of having a tape and backup solution you’d just use the cloud for it,” said Phillips. “Amazon has a cloud gateway. That is a way to get rid of some of the infrastructure you may have from a back up and tape perspective.”

Phillips said Riverbed offered WAN optimization which helped early on, but really what customers have discovered, is it’s not a bandwidth problem, it’s not the size of the pipe that goes between the sites – it’s the latency of the apps: Revit and Bentley MicroStation, Tekla Structures and all the CAD variations. “They are very chatty, so when you open a file, say an AutoCAD file, there are about 16,000 file operations that happen. So the file is doing all these X-refs, etc., and normally what would have to happen, wherever that file has been opened from, it would take a lot of time.”

An example is the company C&S, who were opening files from San Diego that took about 22 minutes for the file to open. “Once they had Panzura it took about 8 seconds for the files to open. The reason why is because we have some unique and patented file locking technology and that enables us to lock the files in San Diego instead of the files being locked in Syracuse. When you get into Revit it’s more difficult because Revit is essentially a model of models so you may have a mechanical person in the city, HVAC in another city, etc. and they all want to be able to collaborate on their sub-model into the project main model, and that’s where the central repository doesn’t even happen. We fix that solution too. We always talk about file locking. What that means is these fields open faster because we reduce the number of links that the app has between it and the lock on the data.”

Having the application, the data is in the lock all in a single location at a single point in time is what solves the “chattiness” of these apps.

Panzura’s global file locking, deduplication and compression systems enable globally distributed users of AEC applications to access and share huge files from the cloud with the same speed as if they were stored locally. Despite expectations of the cloud storage gateway market reaching $3.5 billion by 2018, a staggering annual growth rate of 80 percent, Panzura’s Cloud Gateway virtual appliance is free.

Because there was a company that provided gateways before Panzura as well as Twin Strata, gateway functionality became part of cloud providers like Amazon, Google or Microsoft. “We made it a commodity way earlier and really tried to focus the conversations around cross site collaborations of apps instead of just using the cloud as a cheap digital attic,” Phillips said.

In AEC, every single member of a project team had to be in same location for a project to go effectively. Now they can hire people from different locales according to which ones are needed.

Phillips says that companies can always find the budget for the collaboration piece. They reduce their WAN optimization or get rid of them because it is built into the Panzura product and use compression, and all on flash based appliances on those sites.

C&S have 16 sites, and before all those sites had islands of data, so each of them had primary storage, then they have to back that up in case primary drive goes down, and then they need tape in case of disaster recovery, so they had that setup of three tiers of storage in every location. C&S had 114 TB update across all 16 locations. It went down to 11 TB when they used Panzura, according to Phillips. So their Amazon bill is less than $400 monthly.

They used Panzura plus Amazon S3 for all three tiers of storage across all their sites. Normally the commonality of files across all those sites is quite high, the same files are in most sites in some form. Amazon and Google say that every single year it will drop by half, soon it will cost less than your cell phone bill.

A smaller engineering firm, GRAEFF, has six sites. They were going to replace their primary storage in two sites at a cost of $1/4 million, and then do backup. Then they got Panzura, and now they pay $384/month to Amazon for all six sites for all tiers of storage.

“We make BIM apps work across sites and they don’t work across sites without us, and the same for CAD apps,” said Phillips. “We enable companies to centralize all their data. It’s great from the cost benefit perspective, and it also enable teams to work across sites as though they are in the same office.”

In a recent report, Gartner Research Director Gene Ruth said, “IT leaders that want a highly collaborative environment beyond FSS [File Sync and Share] should consider global namespace and file-locking capabilities when selecting a solution. Global namespace enables customers to create a logical structure for multiple storage devices across distributed locations so that the location of a share or file is no longer defined by the physical device that it resides on and helps maintain data integrity. File-locking capabilities ensure that files distributed across locations are protected against data corruption issues that can be caused by simultaneous access.”

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Categories: AEC, architecture, AutoCAD, Autodesk, Bentley Systems, BIM, building information modeling, Cloud, construction, data archiving, engineering, field, field solutions, GIS, global locking file systems

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