Ian Sefferman is a founder of Openomy.com, a novel and compelling online storage provider with over 20,000 users. Only it isn’t just online storage. It is an online file system with open API’s so custom applications can be built upon it, just as they are with standard file systems.

Part of the reason I don’t “get” current online storage is that I can’t think of many reasons for it to exist. When you can buy a 4GB flash drive for $75, what exactly is the advantage for a road warrior to rely on a much slower network connection? Lots of companies have attempted to turn laptop backup into an online storage killer app, and it hasn’t happened. Media (photo, video, music) sites, on the other hand, have done well, saving millions from the pain of repeatedly uploading or emailing content over slow cable and DSL links. Is there a pattern here?

Byte Wraps To Go
Consumer storage apps succeed by building applications around the storage. What is an iPod? A music playing app wrapped around storage. A digital camera? An image capture app wrapped around persistent storage. Broadcasting obviates the need for personal storage. Self-casting restores it.

So Openomy.com is on to something by building an open platform that encourages developers to wrap applications around storage. They can sell the storage, as well as supported versions of the software building blocks for VARs who want to roll their own business model. If you have a killer app for the storage cloud in the sky, Openomy.com is the place to go.

Everything Breaks. Get Over It.
Openomy.com uses a clustered file system behind their API called MogileFS. It is GFS-similar in that it manages files and storage together, including pooling, replication, shared-nothing architecture, no SAN or RAID, optimized for write-once read-many applications like photo sharing. Openomy has modified MogileFS to better handle large files, but not much else. Since the resilience is built into the software, they get SAN level availability without the cost. BTW, we need a better name for these things than file systems. Any suggestions?

Ian and his co-conspirator, Maurice Codik, started the company last year. Their vision for online storage is a refreshing change from the mostly-soon-to-be-out-of-business providers today:

[A]s we move to a more online life, with more apps going online, we’re going to want access to our data in more ways. but with the current way we’re building online apps, your data is likely just stored in some database on the services server. . . you never to get access to [it] other than through their single interface… we believe that’s totally backwards. . . [W]e should be able to have more and more access to our data.. we need a centralized place where we can dispatch [data] from. This would really change the storage game. . . .

Are you listening, Google?