From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Introducing Gazzang zTrustee!

I'm out at the GigaOM Structure conference in sunny San Francisco this week, where Gazzang has launched its newest product -- Gazzang zTrustee!  My colleagues and I have dedicated the last 6 months to the design, architecture, development and testing of this new product, and I'm thrilled to finally be able to speak freely about it.

Gazzang's original product, zNcrypt is a transparent data encryption solution -- a GPLv2 encrypted filesystem built on top of eCryptfs, adding mandatory access controls and a dynamic policy structure.  zNcrypt enables enterprise users to secure data in the cloud, meet compliance regulations, and sleep well at night, ensuring that all information is encrypted before written to the underlying storage.

As of today, Gazzang's newest product, zTrustee is an opaque object storage system, ultimately providing a flexible, secure key management solution for data encryption.  Any encryption system, at some point, requires access to keys, and those keys should never be stored on the same system as the encrypted data.  While zTrustee was initially designed to store keys, it can actually be used to put and get opaque data objects of any type or size.

Planet Ubuntu readers might recognize a few small-scale ancestors of zTrustee in other projects that I've authored and talked about here in the past...  The encrypted pbputs and pbget commands now found in the pastebinit package are similar, in principle, to zTrustee's secure put and get commands.  But rather than backing uploads with a pastebin server, we have implemented a powerful, robust, enterprise-ready web service with extensive, flexible policies, redundancy, and fault-tolerance.  The zEscrow utility and service are also similar in some other ways to zTrustee, except that zEscrow is intended to share keys with a backup service, while zTrustee blindly and securely stores opaque objects, releasing only to authenticated, allowed clients per policy.

Planet Ubuntu readers may be pleased to hear that our zTrustee servers are currently running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS server, replicated across multiple cloud providers.  The RESTful web service is built on top of a suite of high quality open source projects, including: apache2, python wsgi, postgresql, sqlalchemy, postfix, sks, squid, gnupg, and openssl (among others).

The zTrustee client is a lightweight python utility, leveraging libcurl, openssl, and gnupg to send and receive encrypted, signed JSON blobs, to and from one or more zTrustee servers.  The client utilizes the zTrustee Python library, which does the hard work, encrypting, decrypting, and processing the messages to and from the zTrustee server.  You'll soon be able to interface with zTrustee using either the command line interface, or the Python library directly in your Python scripts.

We've turned our current focus onto Android, while developing a Java interface to zTrustee, so that Java programs and Android applications will soon be able to interface with zTrustee, putting and getting certificates and key material and thereby enabling mobile encryption solutions.  Looking a little further out down our road map, we'll also use these Java extensions to support zTrustee clients on iOS, Mac, and Windows.

While I'm big fan and proponent of eCryptfs and zNcrypt, I plainly recognize that there are lots of other ways to encrypt data -- dmcrypt, TrueCrypt, FileVault, BitLocker, HekaFS, among many others.  From one perspective, encrypting and decrypting data is now the easy part.  Where to store keys, especially in public/private/hybrid cloud environments, is the really hard part.  Many people and organizations have punted on that problem.  Well as it happens, I like hard problems, and Gazzang likes market opportunities and for that, we're both proud to promote zTrustee as a new solution in this space.

This post is intended as a very basic or brief introduction to the concept, and I'll follow this with a series of examples and tutorials as to how you might use the zTrustee client, library, and mobile interfaces.


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