[ This article was first published in the June, 2010, issue of
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Though it has a nice sound — “instantly access any of your files from the cloud” — I am deeply suspicious of storing any files where I can’t see where they are located; or control who has access to them.
I’m reminded of a line from a Harry Potter book: “Never trust anything when you can’t see where it keeps its brain.”
With that as perspective, I had a call on Friday from Peter Chang, who’s the CEO and Founder of Oxygen Cloud. They announced a new cloud-based file-sharing service on June 24 that goes beta in July and ships later this year.
According to their website (www.oxygencloud.com):
Oxygen Cloud connects all people, data and devices to a single file system. The company is delivering native desktop collaboration and cloud storage brokering to business end users.
First, a non-technical definition. A “cloud” is a pool of storage resources that can scale to any arbitrary size. There are public clouds — Amazon Web Services, Nirvanix, Iron Mountain — which make their storage available via the Internet.
However, there are also private clouds, which are owned, controlled, and operated by a private company on their own site. These private clouds can be located either inside or outside the company’s firewall. The new Drobo FS was specifically designed for this purpose.
The key concept is that, while a cloud is fixed in location, it is not fixed in capacity. Thinking about a cloud means not thinking about a storage device, but instead as a storage space.
My first question to Peter was, “why even bother with clouds, they sound suspiciously like a file server?” The answer is both simple and complex. A hard disk, or RAID, attached to a file server is both a specific location and a specific size. When that drive fills up, you either need to add a new one, thus creating a new device in a new location, or replace the unit with a larger one, thus necessitating a lot of file transferring. What a cloud does is replace a single point of storage with an expandable amount of storage. That way, as you need more storage, you simply expand the cloud, without having to contact users whenever changes are made to where they can store files.
But, according to Peter, file servers also have inherent problems:
Peter continues, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”
That’s where Oxygen Cloud comes in. They provide the software in the middle between “the cloud,” which is storage hardware, and the user who needs to access the data. Servers store data. The Oxygen Cloud system manages it. Think of them as a media asset manager, that’s managing all your files, not just media.
Now, I agree, that the list of questions posed by Peter is very much like asking whether you like motherhood and apple pie. Still, it raises some interesting thoughts.
Peter tells me that setting up a cloud is traditionally not trivial. And we all know how hard it is to create an easy-to-use asset manager. What Oxygen Cloud has done is create an interface similar to a folder in the Finder that you open to find your files. “Oxygen has done a lot of work.” Peter said, “to make our software a very light-weight middleware so that files can move through the system at whatever speed the network supports.”
This file management software is a paradigm for how to manage files. It only points to files on the cloud. Oxygen shows all files, but only provides links to where the files are stored. Supports all types of files for all applications.
Oxygen tracks all metadata for files, who is doing what, and where is it stored. Oxygen also stores all content in the cloud and connect it to a familiar experience – like opening a hard disk icon. It allows users to see the history, prior versions, add comments, and collaborate on files among other things.
While this system is not designed for managing the massive media files we need for editing, it sounds attractive for managing the creative, collaborative process of production.
To learn more, visit Oxygen Cloud (www.oxygencloud.com) and signup for their newsletter. When they release the software, you’ll be able to download a desktop application that looks like the Finder. The cost is expected to be $10 per month.
I’m still not convinced on all the security issues. However, the world and our production teams are increasingly going mobile. This might be one way to enable them to do more with the resources we already have.
This strikes me as something worth investigating further.
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