Over the course of the last two years, the open source ownCloud project has emerged as a leader in cloud storage. What ownCloud provides is an open source alternative to proprietary cloud storage systems like Dropbox and Box. With ownCloud, a user can setup cloud storage on their own server or a third party server.
Frank Karlitschek is the founder of ownCloud and the CTO of the commercial company that provides enterprise releases and support for ownCloud. In an interview with InternetNews, Karlitschek detailed his vision for ownCloud and where the technology is headed next.
The last major release of the open source ownCloud project debuted in May with the 4.0 release. In the next several weeks, Karlitschek plans on releasing ownCloud 4.5.
Among the improvements in ownCloud 4.5 will be performance gains that enhance synchronization speeds. The new release also solves the problem of large file uploads. What ownCloud 4.5 does is, instead of sending one large file up to the cloud for storage, large files are 'chunked' and uploaded piece by piece.
Karlitschek said there are also a number of improvements with the ownCloud media player, which is now able to stream video.
"So you can basically click to upload a file and then directly watch via an HTML5 interface in a browser," Karlitschek said.
Karlitschek added that with Dropbox, for example, users will typically sync everything down to their desktops. With ownCloud there is no storage limit, since users get to setup their own clouds on the infrastructure of their choice. As such the idea with ownCloud is that users can store all of their data and not just a subset of data.
"That means you can't sync everything down to your computer as your hard drive might not be big enough," Karlitschek said. "So what users can do is synchronize their data for files they really want on the desktop like documents or pictures."
A user might choose not to sync a movie or mp3 collection in order to save space on the local computer's hard drive. However, if the user wants to watch a movie they have stored in ownCloud, they don't want to have to download or sync the whole movie in order to watch it. That's the use case that the HTML5 video player aims to serve, enabling users to view video directly from the server storage.
Why ownCloud Works
Karlitschek noted that from the very beginning of the ownCloud project he knew that it was a great idea.
"It seems to be something that people really like," Karlitschek said. "I think it could be an important piece of the IT world."
He added the origins of free software are all about having control over what is going on your own machine.
"It is good that we have Linux on the desktop and on the server but if all the data is stored at Google or Dropbox or Microsoft, where is the freedom there?" Karlitschek said.