The rise of the Cloud Data Aggregators

As storing data in the cloud becomes increasingly more normal users will increasingly find themselves in the position of needing to access different types of data regularly.  To this end we are starting to see a new breed of applications and services which themselves provide a service that interacts with data stored on the cloud. The challenge is  that services that sell their products or service based on data access are in the position of having to choose which data services to support.

This is further exacerbated in the cloud storage space as their is no ubiquitous API (see our prior post on Amazon S3 becoming a de facto standard interface).

To this end we are starting to see services an applications that themselves are offering interesting aggregations of access to data clouds. We look at a few of these below:

GoodReader, Office2 HDQuickOfficeDocuments to Go, iSMEStorage, iWork:

The iPad,  iPhone, Android have some interesting applications which function on top of existing data clouds. All the aforementioned application work in this way, either letting you view the files (in the case of GoodReader) or letting you view and edit the files (in the case of Office2, QuickOffice, Documents to Go, iWork, and iSMEStorage). The premise is that if you have data stored in an existing cloud then you can load and view or edit it in this tools and store it locally.

Tools such as iWork (which encompasses iPages, iNumbers, and iKeynote) only work with MobileMe or the WebDav standard, although the iSMEStorage App gets around this by enabling you to use iWork as an editor for files accessed through it’s cloud gateway , that can be stored on any number of clouds, using WebDav, even if the underlying cloud does not support WebDav.

In fact some companies are making data access a feature in pricing, for example,  charging extra for increased connectivity. and :

Both Gladinet and SMES are unique amongst the current Cloud vendors in that they enable aggregated access to multiple file clouds. They essentially enable you to access cloud files from multiple different providers from a single file system.

Gladinet is inherently a windows only solution with many different offerings whereas Storage Made Easy also has windows software but also has cloud drives for Linux, Mac and also mobile clients for iOS, Android and BlackBerry. Gladinet is  a client side service whereas SME is a server-based service using it’s Cloud Gateway Appliance ,which is also available as a virtual appliance for VMWAre, XEN etc.

Both offering support a dizzying array of Cloud, such as, Amazon S3, Windows Azure Blob Storage, Google Storage, Google Docs, RackSpace Cloud Files etc, plus many more.

Such solutions don’t just aggregate cloud services but bring the cloud into the desktop and onto the Mobile / Tablet, making the use of cloud data much more transparent.

As data become more outsourced (to the cloud) for all types of different applications and services I expect we will see more such innovative solutions, and applications that give access to aggregated cloud data, and extend the services and tools that are provided by the native data provider.

Research shows that most small businesses use over 3 information Clouds

London, United Kingdom – SMEStorage, the multi-cloud data access provider, polled 1000 of its users to understand how many information clouds they use, and also to understand the challenges that they face.

Of those who responded it was found that the average number of file based storage clouds that were used were three. The breakdown of these were typically two for personal use and one for business use. Of the two for personal use, Google Docs and Amazon S3 were the most popular with Microsoft SkyDrive and Amazon S3 the second most popular combination. Amazon S3 was the most popular storage cloud used for business. Google Docs was the most popular used for documents closely followed by Microsoft SkyDrive.

Of those polled 91% used some form of file server, file store, or stored data only on their PC or laptop. The biggest challenges identified for moving this data to the clouds were availability, security, and speed of access.

Also the majority of users polled had two or more email clients. One or more for personal use and one for work. Asked how much file based information they believed was stored in their email clients over 70% of respondents answered that the amount of file information stored in email was ‘substantial’ and ‘important’.

The majority of users used at least one social network cloud with 45% using two or more and 37% using at least two. The most popular social network with respondents was LinkedIn, followed by Facebook. The most popular combination was LinkedIn and FaceBook with the second most popular combination being LinkedIn and Twitter. Evernote was also used by 27% of respondents.

The most important information stored in Social network clouds that respondents identified was contact information, with the second most important information being identified as photos.

Only 2% of respondents had attempted any form of backup of social network information with 67% believing it was important to do. Contact information was outlined as the most important thing to back up.

The top challenges that respondents identified for the use of Cloud for the majority of their data were: Desktop tooling / ease of use; ‘On the move’ access from different devices; Security and Safety of data; Availability and speed.

SMEStorage has over 100,000 users using it’s multi-cloud Data Access platform and conducted the research to understand how it can best serve it’s users for forthcoming feature enhancements.

SMEStorage already provides the ability to view file clouds, including email clouds, in an aggregated view from a ‘Virtual Cloud File System’ either directly from a web browser, or from virtual drives on either Windows, Mac or Linux Desktop’s.

SMEStorage also provides clients for iPad, iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. The SMEStorage CloudDav service which enables WebDav over clouds that do not natively support WebDav also enables integration with other smart devices that have native WebDav support, such as the Nokia N8 smartphone.

Additionally SMEStorage also currently enables the backing up of Social network contacts as well public/private file encryption over any storage clouds to enhance the security of data.

Future feature enhancements that SMEStorage intends to roll out include the ability to use the Amazon S3 APi as an entry point for all supported storage clouds; Support for backing up Evernote, Twitter and Instapaper clouds; Support for new storage clouds that will include Google Storage and PogoPlug; Richer desktop and sync clients for all desktop operating systems.

CloudCamp London

CloudCamp London was fun as usual in the plush Microsoft offices in London and is now developing a real sense of community. Simon Wardley was a host extrodinaire as always and his 100 slide 5 minute presentations are stuff of legends now.

Interesting 5 minute lightening presentations from Dan Stone on Terracotta V GigaSpaces, and HP on on Clouds Security and obfuscation and a good talk by Zeus as well as CloudSoft

I haven’t seen many of the presentations made available yet but the SMEStorage talk on Unifying Storage Clouds can be viewed below: