Old Reliable: FTP Still Relevant in an SOA, Cloud World

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You would think that all this movement toward cloud and services and SOA would mean the end of things like managed file transfer and FTP. Instead, companies that offer these approaches are reinventing themselves and claiming new relevance.


For instance, Ipswitch File Transfer is a company that offers software for network monitoring and managed file transfer. Frank Kenney, Ipswitch's vice president of global strategy and a former Gartner analyst, said the company is applying its file transfer management technology to the cloud.

Sixty to 70 percent of the data that's just flowing around your company is in these large batch files, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, flat files, mp3s, video files-I mean you're talking about upwards of 70 percent of what you move day in and day out are these types of files," Kenney told me in March. "The only type of technology that's really optimized to be able to move them around in a way that you can track and trace and still have a high degree of performance is managed file transfer, then manage file transfer technology becomes one of the logical solutions to brokering the conversations in between the cloud and the company.

And ShareFile Sync is trying to make the whole FTP process more user-friendly, as Mike Vizard wrote earlier this year.


Cleary, integration's come a long way since FTP. But as a recent TechTarget article notes, it doesn't get more basic than FTP, which makes it a hard approach to shake.


"FTP is the 'lowest common denominator' protocol in most corporations. It's a ubiquitous protocol for moving information between applications and corporations," Mamoon Yunus, president and CEO of Crosscheck, told TechTarget. "Where central integration strategies and architectures are not available, FTP is a known, simple, light and rapid way for application integration."


That's why some companies want to bring Managed File Transport (MFT) under SOA's governance umbrella, according to Yunus.


Crosscheck's subsidiary, Forum Systems, recently announced changes to its Forum Sentry Gateway that allows companies to extend MFT deployments to the cloud and within SOA and apply governance policies to those deployments. Yunus explained in the TechTarget article a bit about how it does that, but according to the press release, published on The Street, the updated version includes these three new capabilities:

  1. Streaming security support.
  2. Flexible protocol- and content-level security, which basically means it'll let you transfer messages over different secured and unsecured transport protocols while ensuring content-level security.
  3. Centralized governance and migration. This includes allowing you to migrate "from batch FTP processing to SOAP with Attachments (MIME, DIME, MTOM), while using existing centralized governance policies across legacy and modern message formats."


Apparently, Gartner analysts have recently preached about marrying file transfer with SOA governance, since the announcement includes this quote from Senior Research Analyst Thomas Skybakmoen and Research Vice President Paolo Malinverno:

Organizations too often consider MFT vendors that only meet short-term tactical needs to replace an unsecured FTP solution. However, organizations should look at long-term strategic needs, and to vendors that offer a complete MFT solution that will integrate into existing technology, where the SOA COE [center of excellence] can provide one centralized governance service for file transfer.

FTP has been around since the 1970s and, may I add, it's not alone in that. So, I, for one, am glad to see it's doing well and adapting - just like the rest of us Generation Xers. Take that, Generation Whatsits.