Global Aspirations: Aspera Console Delivers Worldwide Web-based Management for High-speed File Transfer Networks

Dec 23, 2008

This month, Aspera announced the release of its new Aspera Console a web-based, enterprise-scale management platform for global file transfer networks. The company has also upgraded its faspex server. Aspera’s high-speed file transport technology--fasp (fast and secure protocol) now in its 2.2 version, is essentially the underlying engine that allows Aspera server and client software to transfer massive data sets at maximum speed, regardless of distance and network conditions, according to Michelle Munson, president and co-founder of Aspera.

The new Aspera Console, released December 17th, allows companies to monitor, control and automate high-speed Aspera file transfers across a network of distributed endpoints through a single web interface. Recognizing the fact that companies are increasingly adopting new digital operations and using IP networks to distribute information that previously was physically shipped, Aspera aims to help organizations to move more core business functions online, thereby increasing workflow efficiency, shortening time-to-market and cutting costs.

Michelle Munson and Serban Simu founded Aspera in 2004. Both engineers, Munson and Simu were interested in eliminating the inherent bottlenecks and deficiencies of traditional transfer protocols (TCP, FTP, HTTP). The duo focuses a great deal on responding to customer demands, and rightly so. "Thanks to its success in the media and government space, the company was able to grow profitably without raising any venture capital," according to Munson.
Munson says that media customers who started expanding the scale of their Aspera deployments expressed the need for a centralized transfer and node management system. "With multiple Aspera servers within an enterprise, hundreds of transferring users, multiple WAN connections and an ever-increasing number of Aspera-enabled business partners, it quickly became a requirement for us to provide a web-based enterprise-scale management interface," says Munson.

"This interface needed to provide comprehensive visibility over transfer activity and bandwidth utilization, while allowing users to initiate and automate transfer jobs, and administrators to manage nodes, user and user group permissions and generate detailed activity reports," Munson explains. "Some key customers helped us clearly scope the project and helped us all along the way, too. Some of the challenges included updating the Aspera server products to ensure flawless communication with the console, and streamlining the flows of control, and monitoring data to ensure smooth performance of the interface."

Through the Console, the administrator clearly defines permissions for users and groups of users. For example, a user group can be restricted to transfer from one server to another, the administrator can choose to enforce encryption for all transfers for that same group, and even define bandwidth caps and transfer priorities. Furthermore, the Console, coupled with the reporting capabilities built into the protocol, provides detailed reports that can help identify suspicious transfer activity.
According to Munson, Aspera is widely used by media and entertainment companies, which move ongoing projects and even finished movies via file transfer products. "We also have been deployed by government agencies including the Department of Defense," says Munson. Of course this means security is a priority. Adds Munson: "This is not as much a selling point as it is a basic requirement for our customers."

Aspera transfers are secured in many ways. Each Aspera transfer is authenticated via SSH, and then the user can choose to encrypt the transfer (AES-128) and turn on a data integrity verification option. On top of that, we have added an encryption at-rest option, which allows for a file to remain encrypted when it has reached its destination; a pass phrase is communicated separately to the intended recipient.
"Thanks to a comprehensive SDK, Aspera technology has been integrated or embedded in a large number of systems--including asset management systems, high-performance storage, video publishing and distribution systems, among others," says Munson. These days Aspera is used by the likes of HULU, the iTunes Store, Microsoft Xbox Live, and major Hollywood Studios. With the unveiling of the Aspera Console, the company clearly hopes to expand its client base, while continuing to respond to the needs of its current clientele.