Storj: Can uberization of cloud storage succeed?

On the face of it, cloud storage should be an ideal candidate for an “excess capacity”, “sharing economy” business model.

Otherwise termed “Uberization”, we’ve seen the rise of apps and services that seek to marry excess capacity in cars, homes etc to those looking to use it, and generally at a cut price.

Decentralised storage pioneer Storj seeks to be the AirBnB of storage, and has just entered public alpha with its version 3 for potential customers that want to test it in their own environments.

With more than $30 million raised and public launch planned for January 2019, Storj promises storage without the need for a third party provider and at “SLAs comparable to traditional datacentres.”

Its target customers are those that use long-term archiving and S3-compatible object storage.

Essentially, Storj enables users able to make excess storage in under-utilised capacity available to others. Data is encrypted, sharded and distributed to those that have allowed their excess capacity to be used, so-called “farmers” who each only have a tiny fraction of a file and in encrypted form.

Users pay for storage in Storj tokens and the farmers get a percentage. It is planned that the network will scale to exabyte levels and, while decentralised, storage capacity itself will not be based on blockchain to avoid a massive and constantly-growing ledger that sucks up bandwidth.

S3 compatibility will mean that those currently using cloud storage will be able to switch to using Storj by simply by changing a few lines of code, its most recent white paper, published last week, claims.

Data protection comprises client-level encryption with erasure coding in case data is lost by failure or, more likely, the lack of availability of a storage node.

Again, bandwidth is cited as the driver here, with erasure coding – the ability to rebuild lost data from distributed parity data – being far more economical of capacity and throughput than retention of multiple copies. Storj hopes for six-nines levels of availability from its implementation.

The Storj network will comprise three components. Uplinks describe the software any user will use to interact with the network, while storage nodes are as described, the place where capacity resides. Meanwhile, satellites orchestrate connections between the two.

It’s an interesting development and possibly one that may suit organisations with cloud storage needs that aren’t super-quick. Storj has explicitly set out to address key likely concerns with such a modus operandi, namely trust (security, and weeding out bad actors) as well as issues of trustlessness, ie ensuring that the inability to rely on all parties is not critical to success.

Making sure these issues are solidly dealt with as well as those of cost and speed of access will determine whether uberisation succeeds or not in data storage.

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