Axway Managed File Transfer Managed File Transfer (MFT)

The case for not building home-grown MFT or an Open Source file transmissions platform

The case for not building a home-grown MFT or Open Source file transmissions platform

How difficult can it be to create a file transmissions gateway?  Why bother investing in a vendor solution when SFTP is freely available?

If you have not had previous experience of delivering an enterprise file transmissions platform to your business application stakeholders, it is understandable that you may ask these questions.  This article highlights the key reasons why creating a home-grown MFT solution or using Open Source never works in reality.

Axway speaks from significant experience because in many cases our customers started the journey of building their own file transmissions gateway, but ultimately invested in an enterprise class file transmissions platform from Axway.  Today, we have thousands of customers globally using Axway’s Secure Transport.

Not all categories of MFT solutions are born equal

If there is one category of software that checks the definition of mission critical, it is the MFT (Managed File Transfer) category! The vast majority of MFT customers define their MFT solutions as Level-0; i.e., they can never go down.

Because of the critical nature of the business processes that the MFT gateways participate in, a few hours of downtime can mean millions of dollars lost and customer relationships compromised.

So, when considering building an enterprise-grade MFT solution with an open-source gateway, one must carefully think about the consequences of ending up with a product that lacks resilience. Software developers know that building highly resilient solutions is a lengthy, complex and very expensive project.

Vendor-based MFT solutions such as Axway’s MFT provides native application clustering and scalability which removes the complexity and burden for end users managing the application.

Feature richness and agility

As the adoption of your file transmissions service grows, so does the scope of requirements and needs.  For example, file ingestion is only the beginning.  It’s often required to do some manipulation of the files such as PGP encryption/decryption, archiving, virus scanning, and automated routing to different destinations.

Then there is the constant evolution of new protocols and new security requirements to support.  As adoption grows, you need to think about the governance of the application.  How is it consumed?  Who does the work?  How good is the monitoring?  This becomes very expensive to develop in a custom home-grown application, but these are all features that are native to COTS (Commercial Off-the-Shelf) solutions such as Axway’s MFT.

Finally, technology is constantly evolving.  Applications that were built 10 years ago are already considered legacy because there are newer and better ways to deploy.  For example, look at the evolution of the Cloud, containerization, and micro services.  Vendor solutions such as Axway MFT are focused on staying current and protecting you from being on legacy islands.

Keeping files secure

File Transmissions Gateways are often used as a file ingress point from the outside world exposing the internet to the corporation.  If not done properly, the risk of security breaches becomes much higher.  Then you factor in the ongoing evolution of staying compliant to industry standards such as SOX, PCI, HIPAA and the evolving vulnerability threats.

A COTS-based solution such as Axway’s MFT protects you from these risks and avoids the costs of heavy investments to remain secure.  For example, Axway MFT factors in a multi-tier architecture ensuring the secure zone of your network is completely protected from the less secure segments of your network.

Port and firewall navigation, bandwidth throttling, IP protection such as whitelisting, multi factors of authentication are all examples of functionality that you get native with Axway but will require costly development when home grown.

Maintaining the skill sets

This is often the biggest reason why our customers gave up on the home-grown/open source approach and invested in Axway.  Even if you successfully accomplish the goal of building a highly secure, robust and feature rich home grown MFT solution, it needs to be maintained. Over time, the original architects and developers move into different roles or leave the organization, leaving new stakeholders with major challenges.

Home grown solutions are often hard to keep current, lack adequate documentation and become a major impact on a corporation’s resources.

Development costs and cost of opportunity

Multiple cost line items must be evaluated when building such enterprise-grade software: development, testing, program management, 24×7 support, security and compliance, product improvements, etc. This is a multi-million-dollar value proposition every year. Then, you have to maintain the knowledge as mentioned above.

But there is another aspect to that cost which is the opportunity cost: the dollars spent in building such software are not invested elsewhere to build unique capability needed to create a ‘first mover’ advantage, for instance. Basically, you would recreate the same MFT capability you have today at a higher cost and for no superior advantage in the end.

Key functionality needed for enterprise-grade MFT

MFT solutions must incorporate the following capabilities to fit the criteria of a mission-critical, enterprise-grade MFT:

  • Enterprise clustering with HA to scale to process hundreds of millions of files per month
  • File transfer acceleration to meet established SLA
  • Guaranteed delivery, checkpoint/restart, resubmit, and near real-time document exchange
  • Full audit and governance with a wide range of industry and government mandates, such as HIPAA, SOX, PCI, GDPR and GLBA
  • Integrate with existing corporate identity and access management infrastructure (LDAP, SAML, Kerberos, Radius, etc.)
  • Delegate administration: a single user interface to support the MFT ecosystem
  • Support a large variety of protocols such as HTTP/S, FTP/S, SFTP and AS2; PeSIT, Amazon S3, Hadoop, Microsoft SharePoint, SMB, JMS, Google Cloud Storage and Google Drive, Azure File, Blob Storage, etc.
  • ICAP connectors enable out-of-the-box integration with DLP and anti-virus engines
  • Comprehensive security with end-to-end controls; clear visibility into your data regardless of the applications, systems, or platforms you and your trading partners have in place. Data is encrypted and secured at all stages of the transfer.
  • REST API-enabled to make it easier to consume MFT services
  • Native monitoring to provide intelligent insight into the processing of files
  • Integrate with existing corporate identity and access management infrastructure (LDAP, SAML, Kerberos, Radius, etc.)
  • Manage files using a web browser client app, featuring full accessibility compliance, branding, language localization, and address book capabilities

It’s one thing to build a solution to process 100,000 files per month. But there is a world of difference if that MFT solution must be built to scale for an enterprise processing more than 50M files per month — in a highly demanding environment of customers spanning a diverse population of small shops to Fortune 100 global corporations.

Axway Managed File Transfer is a proven solution that scales almost limitlessly for the enterprise.  Axway maintains a large staff of professionals dedicated to the product and a world-class software development and testing life cycle so that our customers don’t have to. Also, Axway keeps the product current with all new vulnerability issues when they are identified.

As a result, our customers realize significant savings by deploying our MFT software and focusing on their business use cases rather than spending time, money and resources on building and maintaining MFT code.

Discover how Axway customers are succeeding with our intelligent self-service MFT.