Cellular customers are expecting more than ever from their mobile carriers. Customers want a fast network that doesn’t slow down, even as more and more content is being streamed from the cloud. Services like Netflix, ESPN, and YouTube are majors drivers of this network squeeze, but increasingly so are “personal” cloud storage services. Balancing the customer desire to upload and download all their files without saturating the network may seem like an impossible task for network carriers, until carriers look to the Bitcasa cloud.
Bitcasa’s Turn-key Drive white labeled cloud offering gives carriers a branded cloud service that is more network efficient, leading to customer satisfaction and customer retention. Compared to other cloud services, Bitcasa’s network efficient cloud can improve the performance of cellular networks in a variety of ways.
Bitcasa compresses your customer’s data before we send it up over the cloud, resulting in smaller file uploads. So instead of sending a 500MB file, we might compress it down to a 200MB file, sending less data through the network and thus improving the performance of your network. The end result – data flows to and from your customer faster. Your customer likely won’t realize this compression is happening, but they will appreciate the seamless experience.
Another key advantage of Bitcasa for carriers is client side data de-duplication. With Bitcasa’s desktop app, we de-duplicate before we send it to the cloud. De-duplication reduces identical files from being stored in the cloud. Rather than sending a whole file to the cloud, we first check our servers to see if we already have it. If we do, we won’t need to send another copy of it to the cloud, thereby improving network efficiency (and leading to happier customers because uploads seem nearly instant).
Customers can also choose to upload their data on Wifi instead of over the cellular network. Carriers benefit from this option by having their networks uncluttered by data upload.
Network efficiency is also improved when the customer downloads data from the cloud to their device. Before sending a movie, picture or audio file from the cloud to the device, Bitcasa automatically performs server side conversion. This tailors the size or resolution of the file to the device and network making the request, so we’re not sending the full sized file to the customer if they don’t need it. So as your customer is starting to play their video, they will receive a “right-sized” file, without the annoying buffering from an inefficient network.
With Bitcasa, end users also benefit from local caching that prioritizes content storage on the device. We reserve some of your customers’ local storage space to keep recently uploaded and accessed files on the device. When customers go to access these “hot” files, they will not use the network at all, allowing your customers really fast access to their data without any impact on the network.
Network operators no longer have to worry about the massive amounts of personal content their customers are streaming to and from the cloud. By offering a branded cloud storage service from Bitcasa to their subscription bundles, the carriers come out on top with a more efficient network for their customers than they ever thought possible.
Last week, Bitcasa attended the Structure 2015 conference in San Francisco. The focus of the conference was to educate the industry about the current cloudscape, which encompasses public cloud offerings, as well as privately branded clouds, and to discuss hot topics like containers.
The conference kicked off with Battery Venture’s Adrian Cockroft presenting on the State of the Cloud and Container Ecosystems.
Later, Raj Patel, Cloud Engineering lead from Pinterest, discussed Pinterest principles of capacity planning and their API-driven infrastructure. A major insight was the good practice of mixing the operations team with the engineering team so each group is be responsible for full-stack site reliability for their own particular areas, and also so ops has full context when something goes wrong.
These good practices are also what we are trying to leverage at Bitcasa to maintain our 99.99% site availability standard.
Cloud industry veteran Derek Collison took the stage to discuss trends we’ll see in cloud over the next 10 years. He said cloud competition will be about service ecosystems — including big data, human-machine learning and human-machine interfacing. “Whoever comes up with the best class of services is going to win,” Collison said.
Next, Sun co-founder Vinod Khosla made a bold statement.”They’ve not introduced what I consider one new idea over the last 30 years,” Khosla said in reference to big players like Dell, EMC and IBM. “Mostly, they’ve spent their last few years engineering financials.”
At Bitcasa we focus on “one new idea” in the cloud space. Our vision is to become ‘The Cloud Inside’ in much the same way that Qualcomm enables devices with CDMA or Sun/Oracle enables devices with Java – licensed software that lives deeper in the stack and unlocks additional user functionality at the settings level.
With Docker being rapidly adopted in today’s development environments, the term container has become a popular buzzword. Eric Brewer, VP of Infrastructure at Google, and Alex Polvi, CEO at CoreOS, discussed the future of containers. In terms of business benefits, they said containers will improve utilization of IT infrastructure and improve consistency and portability so the infrastructure can scale, and also help automation and health check.
In the machine learning area, there is a trend of pushing machine learning applications to the lower layer of the stack and into the database level. Joseph Sirosh, Corporate VP at Microsoft, then talked about this practice at Microsoft and the future of analytics and API economy.
We also focus on the API economy at Bitcasa with our CouldFS APIs. CloudFS is a set of APIs and SDKs that allow developers to easily and seamlessly integrate cloud storage into their applications or devices. Developers are free to focus on their core competency — their app’s UI/UX — instead of spending countless hours reinventing the cloud storage wheel.
Google’s 8th employee and tech guru Urs Hölzle also forecasted how the cloud of 2020 will be drastically different from the cloud of 2015; he considered what the computing world will look like in the IoT area and what the need will be to feed such IoT interactions with existing data infrastructure.
This also aligns with Bitcasa’s long term vision for the device economy. With the ongoing complexity of building secure and scalable storage solutions, the device economy will increasingly turn to partners who can meet their needs. Bitcasa will define such system-level standards and the notion of app-based storage will become almost irrelevant.
As B2B vendors, we are all curious about the next topic, What’s On Every CTO’s Wishlist in next year? John Roese, SVP and CTO from EMC, and Ken Owens, CTO Intercloud Services from Cisco, gave us more insights here, especially when they pointed out that the cloud turnkey solution is critical to minimize go-to-market time.
The Bitcasa Turn-key solution enables partners to offer their customers a fully featured service and functionality that surpasses the performance and security of many major cloud storage providers, with little to no development. Partners can quickly deploy a battle-tested suite of cloud storage applications under their own brand, own their end-users and maintain their billing without giving up any control of data.
Finally, Quentin Clark, CBO from SAP SE, discussed latency in the cloud world and emphasized that data centers should always be close in proximity to the businesses they serve.
At Bitcasa, we’re developing our own data regionalization service to optimize how we store user data to give the most private and seamless user experience.
Want to learn more? Check out Bitcasa’s Twitter feed for a “live stream” of the event.
At Bitcasa, our mantra is “Your users. Your brand. Your cloud.” We believe that integrating cloud storage into your device or application will add value to your business. Your customers should truly be YOUR customers.
At Bitcasa data is part of our DNA. We’ve put significant investment to build an in-depth, big data analytics engine that tracks anonymized events as users are engaging with the service. We track millions of events each day across our apps and servers. These events are processed in near-real time and delivered to a data warehouse for reporting, querying, and live dashboards.
This isn’t just rhetoric. One of the features of Bitcasa Turn-key Drive is the analytics we provide partners with a range of data about their end-users. How are customers using the service? What are the patterns and trends? How can partners use this data to deliver an improved customer experience and drive more revenue? The answer is always in the data.
Understanding how users use the cloud – whether it be simple file backup or continuous content engagement, this information can provide an understanding of all or a subset of subscribers. Such information may support developing new service levels, targeted package and features, maybe even region specific features or pricing. Gathering file type information will help in targeting specific segments of a market, or fine tuning messaging and positioning. Imagine anticipating user behavior to reduce churn or make inferences on a target yet untapped.
Bitcasa can provide basic reporting, on a regular basis – with basic usage statistics for storage behaviors, cross-device access, file-type breakdowns, gets and puts. Bitcasa will be able to provide more advanced analytics in the future, giving insight into trends, indicators of churn or upgrade. The possibilities are endless if the data is explored.
It’s only natural for Bitcasa to make this same data available to our partners. After all, you know your business and your customers better than anyone. Adding the detailed layer of data provided by Bitcasa is another valuable way to drive business growth.
Bitcasa does more than just provide device manufacturers, network operators, and software developers the tools to provide cloud storage services; we work together with our partners to help foster and grow their ecosystem. Data provides the backbone to make meaningful decisions to improve user experience and retention. Afterall, they are your users and you should know them better than anyone.
It’s frustrating. You’ve signed up for a service that allows you to sync all of your data across all of your devices. You realize that your storage is nearly full on your smartphone. You have access to contacts and photos on your phone and computer, but you clearly need more space. You worry that relying entirely on the cloud could mean waiting a long time to retrieve your content. This might happen on many cloud platforms, but not with Bitcasa.
We know that users want everything at their fingertips – whether it’s content stored in the cloud or locally on devices. With smart caching, we can offer our partners and their customers true network efficiency. Bitcasa can predict user behavior with content and uses smart caching to prioritize content storage, lending to network efficiency. What does that mean?
Where data resides plays a huge part in smart caching. There are immediate needs, semi-predicted needs, and less semi-predicted needs. Based on user interactions with content, Bitcasa can decipher levels of interest in different blocks. This makes, it easier to organize the blocks at different distances from users, based on the frequency of access.
Bitcasa sends and receives blocks of data to the server. Based on user interaction with the blocks, Bitcasa tells the server when those blocks will be needed again. Bitcasa keep blocks various distances from the user based on how often they access a given block. So when a user requests that block, they will quickly get their content.
Bitcasa uses a local disk as a cache for data blocks. The remote server can keep certain blocks local. Bitcasa worldwide block storage regions also store blocks. Each of these block stores is slower than the last. Another way to look at it: looking for a block on your hard drive is like looking in your backpack; looking for a block on the remote server is like looking in the trunk of your car parked outside; and looking in any of our storage regions is like driving to the office and looking in your desk.
Most cloud storage companies are only able to use the local storage and remote storage features they’ve built in order to store and retrieve the complete files that users own. Since Bitcasa streams files to and from our clients in a block based manner, we’re able to provide the same experience that network file systems offer.
Users don’t have to wait for entire files to sync down before they access them. Before they’re fully synced they’re also able to seek around in the file, as well. So if a user has a large video or music file, for example, we can stream the blocks for the portion of the video being viewed at that time. The user can skip around in the video anywhere they want.
Once the data is in our system, we use a couple of different cache management techniques to keep the blocks as ready as possible. For the disk cache for the user we implement an adaptive most recently used cache that keeps blocks that need to still be uploaded to a server, but manages to get rid of blocks that go unused over time in order to make room for more incoming data. As we evict data from the local disk cache, and consider it important enough to keep close by, we tell the server we’re connected to keep these blocks in a local server disk cache. That way we don’t need to go to our global region storage to search for the block again.
Whether the data is local or in the cloud, whether it’s been accessed earlier in the day or years prior, smart caching makes the customer experience a seamless one. Our partners and their customers experience that difference.
In our recent blog about the dis-aggregation of cloud storage, we talked less about ourselves and more on topics that we found relevant and interesting to both Bitcasa and our readers. In today’s blog, we continue the trend by taking a historical look at storage innovation and its effect on pricing.
Almost a decade and a half ago it would have seemed inconceivable to hold terabytes of data in the palm of your hand. Yet now, personal computer, laptop internal and external hard-drives ship in configurations of multi-terabytes; and cloud storage solutions offer tens, hundreds of terabytes and even infinite storage.
Behind this trend lies Kryder’s Law (a parallel to Moore’s Law), an observation that magnetic disk storage density increases at a remarkable rate over a short period of time. As Moore’s Law had with its effect on computing pricing, Kryder’s Law has caused the price of storage to plummet, giving consumers cheap accessible storage at a time when digital content growth is exploding.
To illustrate, we graph the consumer hard drive price per gigabyte over time since the turn of the century. Indeed, we observe that price has dropped significantly: from around $9/GB in year 2000 to mere pennies today. What’s interesting however, is that this pace seems to be leveling off as shown by the graph below:
Taking a closer look in the next chart, we see a stabilization in prices (except for a brief spike in Nov 2011 due to a manufacturing supply disruption caused by floods in Thailand) in recent years, especially from 2011 onwards:What’s behind this deceleration? For one, manufacturers seemed to have stopped shipping larger and larger drives. We find that there was a doubling of capacity every 2 years between 2005 and 2011. However, this doubling of capacity peaked with the 4TB size (we speak mainly about consumer-grade PC/Laptop internal magnetic hard drives) and have remained since.
Is Kryder’s Law fading? Not quite. We note that larger drives are still being developed with newer technologies – such as helium-filled drives that enable double the data to be packed-in. However, these enterprise-grade devices are currently too costly for the consumer market.
The current crop of ultra high density drives live in data-centers and server farms powering the cloud, which incidentally is also driving users away from local storage. Notice from the infographic above, the increased introduction of and user adoption of cloud-based services (such as streaming media and cloud storage) since peak consumer HD capacities. Coincidentally as well, notice the decrease in AWS S3 pricing as the cost savings of increased storage density (hence lower price/GB) of enterprise HDs are being passed down by Amazon.
Have we seen a peak in local HD sizes at 4GB? Or will advanced technology trickle down to consumer grade drives, sparking another wave of decreasing price/GB followed by a response in pricing by AWS and other cloud providers?
Where advancements in CPU, memory and networking have followed Moore’s Law by doubling performance every couple years, storage drives have followed a more one-dimensional improvement by increasing only in density and not much improvement in speed, reliability and functionality. Perhaps we have reached peak Kryder’s Law and the answer isn’t in denser and cheaper storage. Perhaps consumers are now seeking more functionality, better speed, more reliability out of storage. Are we at a point where the doubling of capacity every two years is no longer enough and we are actually expecting “2 times better performance”?
In the age of streaming more and storing less locally, consumers are transitioning towards cloud services. The availability of cloud storage services such as Bitcasa allows consumers to unlock mobility while gaining access to secure terabytes of storage. Arguably, for storage it is the cloud that is the driver for unlocking Moore’s law. Storage is better with the cloud.
The shift to the cloud signals a transformation of the drive. This is not the same as killing the drive. What we see is a peaking of local storage at some “optimal” range (4TB) and cloud technologies facilitating a transformation that pushes the boundaries of storage innovation beyond capacity; where we see true performance improvement in accessibility, mobility, durability and functionality. And Bitcasa is helping to drive that transformation.
San Mateo, CA (October 20, 2015) — Bitcasa, the cloud drive for the device economy, today announced a licensing agreement with SanDisk, a global leader in flash storage solutions, for the development of SanDisk-branded cloud storage solutions using the Bitcasa cloud storage platform.
As device use and digital content creation continues to explode, OEMs, carriers, and ISVs have begun to realize the power of cloud storage as a brand extension to attract and retain customers. Bitcasa’s platform provides the infrastructure, applications, and administrative controls that enable licensees to develop their own secure, branded solutions.
“We are thrilled to announce our collaboration with SanDisk,” said Brian Taptich, CEO of Bitcasa. “It further validates our belief that cloud storage will ultimately become disaggregated, creating a huge opportunity for Bitcasa and our partners.”
“Bitcasa is showing true innovation here, allowing partners to quickly and seamlessly bridge physical devices to the cloud. SanDisk clearly recognizes the value in the Bitcasa platform and the value it can provide across numerous technologies and markets,” said Terri McClure, Senior Analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
SanDisk joins a growing roster of partners, including Hutchison Telecom and over 23,000 developers, which have chosen to cloud-enable their products using Bitcasa’s white label applications and APIs.
The first product of the partnership, the SanDisk Ultra +Cloud USB flash drive, which provides 64 GB on the stick and 64 GB in the cloud in now available for purchase:
Buy Now in the U.S.
Buy Now in Europe
Bitcasa is transforming the drive. By providing secure APIs and white label cloud storage applications for OEMs, network operators, and software developers, Bitcasa helps the device economy create deeper relationships with their customers in over 140 countries worldwide. The Bitcasa Platform enables secure file storage, access, and sharing across all major platforms including Android, iOS, Windows, Mac OSX, Linux, and the Web. Bitcasa is backed by top-tier investors, including Horizons Ventures, Pelion Venture Partners, First Round Capital, Samsung Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. For more details visit www.bitcasa.com or follow us on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/company/bitcasa or on Twitter @bitcasa.
It’s been a challenging couple of years which we believe has yielded an exciting future – but it took a lot to get here.
As early as 2013, it was apparent that Bitcasa’s consumer business – fighting trench warfare with $1 trillion in publicly-traded companies, offering unlimited cloud storage for $10/month – was unsustainable.
We faced a terrible choice: shut down the company or evolve the core technology platform in a different direction – in either case, alienating our earliest and largest (and, turns out, most vocal) supporters.
But our Board, our executive team, and our employees weren’t willing to give up.
While Bitcasa was struggling under the weight of a broken go-to-market strategy, we were seeing extraordinary interest from developers of all shapes and sizes: From two-person app developers looking to leverage a set of public cloud file system services and the largest mobile handset and storage device manufacturers looking for their answer to iCloud to network operators and public cloud providers looking to bring an additional set of services to their user base and OS and chip developers looking for embedded cloud solutions. These diverse developers shared a universal understanding that the virtual drive platform Bitcasa had built is fundamentally different than other file sync/share applications, with a set of capabilities that are not only interesting today, but even more importantly, can be transformational in a device-driven future.
The disaggregation of cloud storage, coupled with increased mobile connection speeds and reliance on ever-shrinking connected devices, will drive one billion new people to use cloud storage over the next five years. We’ve spent the past year evolving our platform-as-a-service to support the needs of this Device Economy.
Now emerging from a difficult transition, our forward-thinking technology and strategy are being validated everywhere we turn. At the 2014-15 Cloud Awards, Bitcasa was awarded the Best Cloud infrastructure for CloudFS, a set of APIs built to streamline application development and eliminate the overhead required to build/manage public cloud storage. Currently over 24,000 developers are using CloudFS APIs.
Additionally, we have signed multiple agreements to provide secure cloud storage solutions for OEM, carrier and ISV partners. Our growing roster includes Hutchison Telecom and several other global brands, which have chosen to cloud-enable their products using Bitcasa’s white-label applications and APIs.
Today, we are pleased to announce that we’ve partnered with SanDisk, the global leader in flash memory storage solutions, to cloud-enable the SanDisk Ultra +Cloud USB Flash Drive, officially in stores this month.
SanDisk consumers can now quickly and seamlessly bridge physical devices to the cloud. Our platform provides the infrastructure, applications, and administrative controls allowing SanDisk, and our other partners, to offer their customers branded cloud storage solutions, including storage, access, and sharing functionality.
SanDisk is just the first of several new partnerships soon to be announced. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, apologies and thanks are in order:
This future has been two years in the making, and we almost didn’t get here. There are challenges ahead, but we know that Bitcasa has the right technology, the right data, the right team, and the right investors to succeed.
We’re excited about this day. For the first time in over two years, we can say our future is bright.
Brian Taptich, CEO of Bitcasa
This past week, a number of Bitcasans attended the Amazon Web Services re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. AWS re:Invent is truly a developer-focused conference, with numerous tech and product announcements from Amazon and tons of hands-on technical breakout sessions. It was really a cloud geek’s paradise, with over 18,000 people attending.
Day 1 of the conference kicked off with a keynote speech by Amazon SVP and head of AWS, Andy Jassy. Some highlights:
The evening of Day 1 was highlighted with a happy hour hosted by Bitcasa. There we heard from some AWS reps who have helped sell Bitcasa to Device Manufacturers, Network Operators, and ISVs, as well as a great demo and discussion from SanDisk’s VP of Business Development about our recent announcement with SanDisk.
Day 2 started with a keynote by Amazon CTO Werner Vogels. The themes here were analytics, IoT, containers & microservices, and mobile development. After a day of breakout sessions, the conference was capped off with a block party featuring live DJing by Zedd.
Want to learn more? You can check out Bitcasa’s Twitter feed for a “live stream” of the events as they were taking place.
September has become Apple’s month. For much of the last decade, they have used September to launch impressive new products as well as updates to existing devices and services. 2015 was no exception with the recent announcement of a new version of iOS, updated iPhones and a new iPad Pro.
Somewhat lost in that announcement, however, is likely the largest long-term driver of value to Apple (and commensurate loss of long-term value to mobile carriers) – Apple-sponsored leasing. With this move Apple takes yet another value block from the carriers and further solidifies customers in the Apple ecosystem. It is a brilliant move for Apple that has the carriers frightened.
The US mobile market has been shifting on several fronts for the past two years, most notably in how customers acquire devices. For the first decade of the 21st century, and even up until early 2013, the standard model was for a carrier to offer a new device to a customer at a steep discount in exchange for a contract, usually two years in length. This “subsidized” model helped lock customers into a particular carrier, creating a strong barrier to switching, and shielded customers from the true cost of the ever-more-powerful mobile devices being carried in their pockets.
When Apple launched the first iPhone in mid-2007, the foundation of the subsidy model began to crack, but it would be half a decade before it essentially crumbled. As the Apple-Android duopoly grew, driving faster, bigger and more functional devices into the market, carriers began incurring subsidy costs in excess of $400 and sometimes higher. Over time, the secondary market began to realize the value of these devices and carriers struggled with finding pricing models that made profitable sense with a two-year upgrade cycle. Additionally, carriers took a look at successful “leasing” models in other markets (Japan, the US car sales) and saw an opportunity (but missed the risk).
Leasing devices began in earnest at almost every carrier in 2013 and is now the dominant form of device acquisition in the market. Verizon, for example, will not be offering subsidized devices going forward (and said almost 60% of its third quarter smartphone sales would be on installment/leasing plans), and most carriers will follow that lead by the end of this year.
For the carrier, leasing fully separated device and service, always seemed like a noble and economically solid decision. Without boring you with the details, the leasing model is materially better for carriers from an accounting and economic perspective. What the carriers never realized, or intentionally blinded themselves to, was that leasing removed one more value element connecting them with their customers. Every carrier fears being the “dumb pipe” and we are stepping closer to that daily.
A brilliant element of the Apple strategy (and Android to some degree, but less so without full end-to-end control of hardware and software) is the continued accretion of value to Apple, and disaggregation of the carriers from the relationship. Think about it. Apple started, really, with your music. The carriers all tried their own music services, but none could compete with iTunes (or Spotify and Pandora). Apple offers its own insurance product – AppleCare – that sucks people away from one of the most profitable offerings the carriers have.
Do most Apple users take advantage of iCloud? Yes, why not? 5GB free storage, location services for your device and a host of other services make it a handy service. Oh, and they sell you additional storage (because who really has only one Apple device)? Have you used ApplePay? If not, you will, or the Google equivalent (I’m sure you remember the carrier payment service – ISIS – not kidding on the name). Another value block for Apple.
With this September’s announcement, Apple has taken yet another huge step in locking customers into the Apple Universe – a world where the carrier is irrelevant. I can now lease an “unlocked” (industry parlance for a phone that works on everyone’s network) device in the super-customer-friendly Apple store (or online) for $32 a month (including AppleCare). Apple promises me a new iPhone every year. Oh, and that iPhone can be switched to any carrier I want, with almost no switching cost other than time and maybe an activation fee.
So now the carriers have been disaggregated from a huge value block and locked further into Apple’s universe. Not surprisingly, Samsung announced their own leasing plan soon after Apple announced theirs. What then, ties me to a carrier? Now only three material things – network quality, price and customer service.
Every carrier, not surprisingly, is desperately searching for other ways to inspire your loyalty. Some, like Sprint, will use price on the iPhone. (Sprint’s iPhone leasing plan is currently on sale for $15/month.) Others like AT&T and Verizon will continue to tout network quality and speed, and add services like storage (AT&T locker and Verizon Cloud) that put a customer’s data at the carrier level, not the device manufacturer level.
If the venture capital and IPO market are any guides, storage may be the near-term best option for carriers. Third-party storage companies like Box and Dropbox command billion dollar plus valuations. Apple already offers iCloud (and Samsung a similar product). But for households with mixed iOS and Android worlds, or who just don’t like having all their proverbial eggs in one basket, carrier storage can be the sticky app for the next few years.
As the IoT market grows, customers will have even more non-traditional mobile data to keep. We liken it to consumer banking – once you have auto bill pay from your checking account, changing banks is really hard. Not worth the hassle. If carriers can tap into that market, it may offset the loss of value in the handset space.