Skip the navigation

Opinion: The Internet could eliminate local backup

Will the Internet and open-source become the ultimate storage service provider?

By John Webster
November 3, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - I try hard not to describe the introduction of a new technology as disruptive, particularly in a public forum. If I'm wrong, the misguided pronouncement sticks to my public resume. So when I say that Cleversafe.org has the potential to become a hugely disruptive force in storage, that statement means I'm willing to take a big public risk.

Back in the day of Internet 1.0, some students and academics at the University of California, Berkeley, developed OceanStore, an architectural model for persistent storage based on interconnected storage "pools" via the Internet. OceanStore envisioned the ultimate storage utility -- globally available access to persistent data for any application (see: " Berkeley Developing Worldwide Storage System"). While OceanStore appears to remain an active project, another one with essentially the same intent has emanated from the open-source community. This is Cleversafe.org.

To date, Cleversafe.org has built the Cleversafe Research Storage Grid, which is a nationally available storage grid targeted at the research community. The only price one currently pays to register and log on to Cleversafe is a 10Mbit/sec. connection to the Internet and 1TB of capacity for each connected Linux server. Donations of additional storage capacity are gratefully accepted.

I'm not here to sell Cleversafe.org. All I want to say is this: To date, open-source hasn't been much of a threat to the storage establishment in the same way it now threatens the entrenched operating syste and database vendors. In my mind, what makes Cleversafe.org disruptive is the concept of global data persistence. If your application's data is always available from the grid, why back it up locally? I'm not suggesting that you throw out your existing backup hardware and software next year, but you might start thinking along those lines as a longer-term backup and recovery strategy for at least some of your high-capacity generating applications. If you test an application using Cleversafe.org storage and it works, I think you'll exploit it further, perhaps for all its worth. That possibility alone could cost the current storage establishment billions.

Yes, there are issues -- like security and performance. Security is more than adequately addressed in the current implementation while performance is not yet capable of supporting transaction-laden applications. But the concept is compelling enough I think to keep the Cleversafe.org community hard at work on the ultimate storage utility. Internet 2.0 is now. The storage services provider model has been resurrected as the storage grid. And the new economy lives. (Please don't hold me to that last statement.)

John Webster is the principal IT adviser for research firm Illuminata Inc. He is also the author of numerous articles and white papers on a wide range of topics and is the co-author of the book Inescapable Data: Harnessing the Power of Convergence (IBM Press, 2005). Webster can be reached at jwebster@illuminata.com.

Read more about Data Storage in Computerworld's Data Storage Topic Center.



Our Commenting Policies