IT in space

Read an article last week about all the startup activity that’s taking place in space systems and infrastructure (see: As rocket companies proliferate … new tech emerges leading to a new space race). This is a consequence of cheap(er) launch systems from SpaceX, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab and others.

SpaceBelt, storage in space

One startup that caught my eye was SpaceBelt from Cloud Constellation Corporation, that’s planning to put PB (4X library of congress) of data storage in a constellation of LEO satellites.

The LEO storage pool will be populated by multiple nodes (satellites) with a set of geo-synchronous access points to the LEO storage pool. Customers use ground based secure terminals to talk with geosynchronous access satellites which communicate to the LEO storage nodes to access data.

Their main selling points appear to be data security and availability. The only way to access the data is through secured satellite downlinks/uplinks and then you only get to the geo-synchronous satellites. From there, those satellites access the LEO storage cloud directly. Customers can’t access the storage cloud without going through the geo-synchronous layer first and the secured terminals.

The problem with terrestrial data is that it is prone to security threats as well as natural disasters which take out a data center or a region. But with all your data residing in a space cloud, such concerns shouldn’t be a problem. (However, gaining access to your ground stations is a whole different story.

AWS and Lockheed-Martin supply new ground station service

The other company of interest is not a startup but a link up between Amazon and Lockheed Martin (see: Amazon-Lockheed Martin …) that supplies a new cloud based, satellite ground station as a service offering. The new service will use Lockheed Martin ground stations.

Currently, the service is limited to S-Band and attennas located in Denver, but plans are to expand to X-Band and locations throughout the world. The plan is to have ground stations located close to AWS data centers, so data center customers can have high speed, access to satellite data.

There are other startups in the ground station as a service space, but none with the resources of Amazon-Lockheed. All of this competition is just getting off the ground, but a few have been leasing idle ground station resources to customers. The AWS service already has a few big customers, like DigitalGlobe.

One thing we have learned, is that the appeal of cloud services is as much about the ecosystem that surrounds it, as the service offering itself. So having satellite ground stations as a service is good, but having these services, tied directly into other public cloud computing infrastructure, is much much better. Google, Microsoft, IBM are you listening?

Data centers in space

Why stop at storage? Wouldn’t it be better to support both storage and computation in space. That way access latencies wouldn’t be a concern. When terrestrial disasters occur, it’s not just data at risk. Ditto, for security threats.

Having whole data centers, would represent a whole new stratum of cloud computing. Also, now IT could implement space native applications.

If Microsoft can run a data center under the oceans, I see no reason they couldn’t do so in orbit. Especially when human flight returns to NASA/SpaceX. Just imagine admins and service techs as astronauts.

And yet, security and availability aren’t the only threats one has to deal with. What happens to the space cloud when war breaks out and satellite killers are set loose.

Yes, space infrastructure is not subject to terrestrial disasters or internet based security risks, but there are other problems besides those and war that exist such as solar storms and space debris clouds. .

In the end, it’s important to have multiple, non-overlapping risk profiles for your IT infrastructure. That is each IT deployment, may be subject to one set of risks but those sets are disjoint with another IT deployment option. IT in space, that is subject to solar storms, space debris, and satellite killers is a nice complement to terrestrial cloud data centers, subject to natural disasters, internet security risks, and other earth-based, man made disasters.

On the other hand, a large, solar storm like the 1859 one, could knock every data system on the world or in orbit, out. As for under the sea, it probably depends on how deep it was submerged!!

Photo Credit(s): Screen shots from SpaceBelt youtube video (c) SpaceBelt

Screens shot from AWS Ground Station as a Service sign up page (c) Amazon-Lockheed

Screen shots from Microsoft’s Under the sea news feature (c) Microsoft

Better erasure coding for scale-out & cloud storage

LRcC(6,2,2) example layout
LRcC(6,2,2) example layout

Microsoft Azure uses a different style of erasure coding for their cloud storage than what I have encountered in the past. Their erasure coding technique was documented in a paper presented at USENIX ATC’12 (for more info check out their Erasure coding in Windows Azure Storage paper).

The new erasure coding can be optimized for rebuild read or storage space overhead. can at times correct for more errors than equivalent, more traditional, Reed-Solomon (RS) erasure coding schemes.
Continue reading “Better erasure coding for scale-out & cloud storage”

Object store and hybrid clouds at Cloudian

IMG_4364Out of Japan comes another object storage provider called Cloudian.  We talked with Cloudian at Storage Field Day 7 (SFD7) last month in San Jose (see the videos of their presentations here).

Cloudian history

Cloudian has been out on the market since March of 2011 but we haven’t heard much about them, probably because their focus has been East Asia.  The same day that the  Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami hit the company announced Cloudian, an Amazon S3 Compliant Multi-Tenant Cloud Storage solution.

Their timing couldn’t have been better. Japanese IT organizations were beating down their door over the next two years for a useable and (earthquake and tsunami) resilient storage solution.

Cloudian spent the next 2 years, hardening their object storage system, the HyperStore, and now they are ready to take on the rest of the world.

Currently Cloudian has about 20PB of storage under management and are shipping a HyperStore Appliance or a software only distribution of their solution. Cloudian’s solutions support S3 and NFS access protocols.

Their solution uses Cassandra, a highly scaleable, distributed NoSQL database which came out of FaceBook for their meta-data database. This provides a scaleable, non-sharable meta-data data base for object meta-data repository and lookup.

Cloudian creates virtual storage pools on backend storage which can be optimized for small objects, replication or erasure coding and can include automatic tiering to any Amazon S3 and Glacier compatible cloud storage. I would guess this is how they qualify for Hybrid Cloud status.

The HyperStore appliance

Cloudian creates a HyperStore P2P ring structure. Each appliance has Cloudian management console services as well as the HyperStore engine which supports three different data stores: Cassandra, Replicas, and Erasure coding. Unlike Scality, it appears as if one HyperStore Ring must exist in a region. But it can be split across data centers. Unclear what their definition of a “region” is.

HyperStore hardware come in entry level (HSA-2024: 24TB/1U), capacity optimized (HSA-2048: 48TB/1U), performance optimized (HSA-2060: all flash, 60TB/2U

Replication with Dynamic Consistency

The other thing that Cloudian supports is different levels of consistency for replicated data. Most object stores support eventual consistency (see Eventual Data Consistency and Cloud Storage post).  HyperStore supports 3 (well maybe 5) different levels of consistency:

  1. One – object written to one replica and committed there before responding to client
  2. Quorum – object written to N/2+1 replicas before responding to client
    1. Local Quorum – replicas are written to N/2+1 nodes in same data center  before responding to client
    2. Each Quorum – replicas are written to N/2+1 nodes in each data center before responding to client.
  3. All – all replicas must have received and committed the object write before responding to client

There are corresponding read consistency levels as well. The objects writes have a “coordinator” node which handles this consistency. The implication is that consistency could be established on an object basis. Unclear to me whether Read and Write dynamic consistency can be different?

Apparently small objects are also stored in the  Cassandra datastore.  That way HyperStore optimizes for object size. Also, HyperStore nodes can be added to a ring and the system will auto balance the data across the old and new nodes automatically.

Cloudian also support object versioning, ACL, and QoS services as well.


I was a bit surprised by Cloudian. I thought I knew all the object storage solutions out on the market. But then again they made their major strides in Asia and as an on-premises Amazon S3 solution, rather than a generic object store.

For more on Cloudian from SFD7 see:

Cloudian – Storage Field Day 7 Preview by @VirtualizedGeek (Keith Townsend)