When Storj, the decentralized cloud object storage company, first appeared on the scene in 2019 calling itself an “AirBnB for disk drives,” the decentralized storage space was still rather nascent. Today, there are a handful more companies that have entered the space, but mainstream adoption still lags.
According to Filebase co-founder and COO Zac Cohen, that adoption is not lagging for lack of technological benefit, but rather ease of use and onboarding, problems that Filebase looks to solve by providing an Amazon Web Services‘ S3-compatible API, which eases onboarding, and abstracts the interactions with the underlying networks by offering turnkey configurations in a SaaS model.
“We recognized pretty early on that an easy on-ramp, that’s the only way that this is going to work. Web3 is either going to be wildly successful, or it’s going to be cumbersome and difficult,” said Cohen. “We really think that now’s the time to leverage decentralized storage in an interesting way and apply it to the cloud, but we also recognize that the only way that this is going to scale is that there needs to be a translation layer between the web to past ecosystems and the future state, and that’s really what Firebase represents.”
The “Web3” concept Cohen refers to is central to Filebase and the storage companies it works with, which currently include Storj Networks and the Sia Network, and will soon include the Filecoin Network and the Arweave Network by the end of 2021. Cohen said they realized early on that Web3 would be the way forward.
“It was really around 2018, that we realized that this stuff was kind of accelerating very quickly. The impact that virtualization had on the data center, we firmly believe Web3, and decentralized storage specifically and what we’re working on at Filebase, will have a similar impact over the upcoming five or 10 years,” said Cohen. “It is still very early, so we are very cognizant of that, we’re not trying to walk into Bank of America and rip and replace them from Amazon, but we really do believe, especially around object storage, that it really can be cheaper than AWS, as a whole.”
As opposed to Web2, which ushered in an interactive web experience that is now dominated by the likes of Facebook and Twitter, and according to one definition “an internet dominated by companies that provide services in exchange for your personal data,” Web3 consists of decentralized apps run on the blockchain that “allow anyone to participate without monetizing their personal data.”
“In Web3, all that goes away, and it’s basically turned upside down on its head and the data is stored somewhere on the internet in a decentralized fashion,” said Filebase co-founder and CEO Joshua Noble. “It’s a massive shift from the storage layer all the way up to the monetization layer because of some of those technical changes.”
Nonetheless, getting started with some of these decentralized file storage services can be a heavy lift. Noble explained that getting started can involve downloading special software and a blockchain, and then indexing and scanning that blockchain — a task that can take anywhere from 12 to 36 hours even on a fast SSD drive, and that’s just the beginning. With Filebase, by comparison, you sign up for an account, login and create a storage bucket, fetch API credentials, and plug those into any S3-compatible tool and get started.
“The process on Firebase is basically far more orchestrated, and you can basically complete the same operation in about five minutes or less,” said Noble. “We make it simple and easy and remove all the technical friction from the equation.”
By making it easy to adopt decentralized storage, Filebase also claims additional benefits over traditional object storage, including reduced cost while also providing geographical redundancy. In addition, Filebase has developed an intelligent caching layer that it says allows customers to write and retrieve data significantly faster than if they were using the network providers directly themselves. As for the cost savings — a 90 percent reduction, they say, which factors in this 3x redundancy — Noble says the savings are a result of what he refers to as the “dirty secret of the cloud.”
“The dirty secret of the cloud is that Amazon and other cloud providers, but especially Amazon, create an experience where they offer compute and storage, and then they offer all these other ancillary services, like hosted queues, and hosted Elasticsearch, and hosted databases, and things like that as a way to kind of keep you in,” said Noble. “Anytime you want to get data out of Amazon, whether it’s serving your web pages to your customers using their CDN products, or even just you want to leave Amazon entirely, the dirty secret is that they charge you exponentially more for the actual outbound data charges.”
Built on everything from MySQL to Redis to Node.js, Ruby on Rails, Go, and Lua, Filebase has been available in production since 2019, with thousands of hosts around the globe approaching the one exabyte level of storage. With a recent influx in investment, the company is looking to expand and grow its customer base, which currently sits at around 4,000, but Noble also explained that they are looking to take their cloud native underpinnings into production as well.
Currently, Filebase is available as SaaS, but they are looking to provide a simple way to deploy Filebase via a Docker image onto Kubernetes to offer “an on-premise S3 gateway that connects to the decentralized networks behind the scenes.”
Amazon Web Services, Redis Labs are Storj are sponsors of The New Stack.