Rocket Battles Dropbox Creep with R/Link MFT
July 8, 2014 Alex Woodie
Dropbox is a huge temptation for business users, but it’s a security no-no in most organizations. One Dropbox alternative you might want to consider is Rocket Software‘s R/Link. The Java-based product, which Rocket launched a year ago, provides robust managed file transfer (MFT) capabilities and a nifty HTML5 interface that lets users securely move files across multiple devices, from smartphones and tablets to IBM i servers and mainframes.
R/Link started life as an idea on Steve Bireley’s whiteboard. Rocket’s managing director of R&D liked the ease-of-use of the popular file sharing service, but its mounting security problems led him and others to believe there was a market for a better file sharing system that lived not on the cloud, but on-premise.
“I had been a Dropbox user at one time, and it seemed to me there was really a need for it for the enterprise,” Bireley tells IT Jungle. “At the time Dropbox was pretty hot–it’s still pretty hot–but it seems like every month there’s some new security breach with Dropbox or any of the other cloud-based services. They’re big targets for hackers, and they spend a lot of time beating on them.”
Rocket has been quite successful in building its product portfolio via acquisition. The IBM i products developed by Aldon, Seagull, and Datamirror now sit cozily inside the Rocket’s hull. But when it came to building an on-prem MFT product, Rocket decided to build it by itself.
The result is R/Link, which the company launched quietly about a year ago. The product bears the hallmarks of MFT. It supports major file transfer protocols, including FTP, SFTP, FTPS, and HTTPS. Security-wise, it features PGP, AES, and SSL-based encryption, supports key management capabilities, offers authentication via LDAP or Active Directory, and keeps an audit log of all activities. It supports time- and event-based scheduling, has check-point restarting to ensure the successful transfers of big files.
Having an easy-to-use UI was a critical design element for R/Link. The company satisfied that requirement with a folder-oriented workflow process called My Share. It works sort of like Dropbox, in that users can create a folder, upload files into it, and share that folder with internal and external users. But unlike Dropbox, the files are never stored in the cloud. Instead, they’re stored in R/Link servers sitting behind the customers’ firewalls.
“It’s expanded much beyond simple sync and share,” Bireley says. “As an enterprise product, it sits on the network in the DMZ so it gives you access to other resources that are inside the firewall. From a mobile device or from a browser, you can access Windows servers, FTP severs–basically anything that’s back behind the firewall that you need to get file system access to. And we make it easy to move files in and out of those servers and put them into sharable areas.”
R/Link excels at being a single product that fulfills several needs. “It gives you the ability to do sync and share and to share files easily with external users using a very simple consumer like interface,” Bireley says. “It gives you the full MFT capability with automation and triggers and scheduling to move files and do file translation. It has access to the local file system where you can use it to exchange files with other applications that are doing pre- and post-processing, so we can trigger other applications to run.”
The software is written in Java, enabling it to run on everything from Windows and Linux servers to mainframes and the IBM i server, where it’s been tested and is supported running on Apache Tomcat. Supporting IBM‘s big iron is critical, since Rocket is “primarily an IBM mainframe and AS/400 business,” Bireley says.
R/Link can access files residing on the IBM i server in two ways: through the JNI interface or directly through the IFS. The product doesn’t support direct database access to DB2 for i at the moment, although Rocket has other file transfer products that do, and it would be fairly easy to build that capability into R/Link, Bireley says.
One early R/Link customer uses the product to push payroll data from an IBM i server to its bank. A CL job initiates the transfer of payroll data from the IBM i server to R/Link over plain vanilla FTP, which is fine since it’s behind the firewall. R/Link then handles the protocol conversion to SSH-based FTP (SFTP), and handles the encryption key exchange with the bank. When the payroll processing is done, the bank uses SFTP to push the data back to R/Link, which then transfers it to the IBM i server via FTP.
R/Link was recently merged into Trubiquity, a hosted file transfer and B2B business that Rocket acquired in March. While the Trubiquity product line excels in providing B2B and EDI managed services among groups of trading partners, R/Link will continue its role of providing secure and hosted file sharing.