The New York Times has a readable article about Cleversafe. StorageMojo.com commented on Cleversafe in June and July (see Cleversafe: Yet Another Online Storage Startup and Coolest Remote Data Services).
The money quote:
The Cleversafe design could lead to a communal Internet storage system that Mr. Patterson called “hippie storage.” The idea is similar to SETI@Home, the shared computing system that allows PC users to contribute idle time on their machines to create a distributed supercomputer.
It sounds a lot more like BitTorrent when described like that. The difference, that the stored bits aren’t readable by themselves so the data is secure, is the key to creating a private resource from a public network.
The Network Is The Storage
The article also gets into the issue of the impact that broadband internet is having on storage: internet-enabled distributed file systems; web storage services; efficient secure storage. The problem with all these schemes is that network bandwidth is so costly compared to storage capacity. Amazon’s S3 for example, charges you almost 3x to upload and retrieve a gigabyte as it does to store it (S3 charges $0.15/GB/per month for storage, and $0.20/GB for bandwidth.)
Gilder’s Fever Dream Remains Just That
George Gilder, the late ’90’s prophet of the Telecosm, foresaw a world where network bandwidth would be both plentiful and cheap. A vision not so different from the atomic energy visionaries of the 1950’s who spoke confidently of energy too cheap to meter. Alas, both were wrong. Networks are expensive compared to local access and always will be. While increases in network bandwidth and speed allow networks to do more every year, their growth rate is far exceeded by the growth of stored data. The network tail does not wag the storage dog – no matter how long the tail is.
Actually, Storage Is The Network
Storage and networks have long been recognized as partial substitutes for each other: caching substitutes storage for bandwidth and access time, whether it is an L2 cache on a CPU or Akamai’s content delivery network storing multiple copies across the web. We use networks to connect pools of storage and skim off the most valuable content. Using broadband networks for massive storage is one of those intriguing theoretical what-ifs that will remain forever just beyond our grasp.
Cleversafe May Have Accidentally Designed Something Great
And not a safe backup infrastructure, either. They may have designed the next generation of storage array. Not RAID anything, nothing encrypted, yet safer and more reliable than any existing array. Data parceled out across hundreds of disks, so no hotspots; lots of spindles for I/O, no single disk drive, or even several, containing reconstructible data; perhaps riding on a cheap, fast network storage protocol like AoE.
Sure, hitching up Cleversafe with a backup data compression appliance on the front end would answer some of those network bandwidth issues. But the real win could be in the data center, where a secure, high-performance infrastructure could be built out of standard components.
Cleversafe has an open-source component. Why not?
As always, comments welcome.